Let’s get something out of the way: I am a Latin teacher.
I realize that this statement prompts the following:
- I’m one of a dying breed.
- Opinions like mine are automatically discredited when speaking against the use of technology because it’s assumed that a lover of antiquity must be dragged kicking and screaming into the future.
- It is the opinion of those at the forefront of the virtual classroom movement that teachers such as myself need to conform or find other employment. And most prefer the latter option, because it frees up money to spend on sexy gadgets/administrative bonuses/a new floor for the gym.
One of these three statements is incorrect. Let’s address each statement in turn.
1. I’m one of a dying breed.
There are fewer Latin teachers these days because there are fewer academic institutions whose administrators acknowledge the value of learning Latin. But I could just as easily be an art/music/literature teacher. Some days, I am.
2. Opinions like mine are automatically discredited when speaking against the use of technology because it’s assumed that a lover of antiquity must be dragged kicking and screaming into the future.
It’s easy to characterize educators in my field as being out-of-touch with the now. We certainly must wear togas and never eat potatoes, tomatoes, or wheat. We also walk everywhere and eschew all forms of technology. I am writing this blog through a deus-powered wax tablet whose mechanisms I will never understand.
But this is the general sentiment that is engendered when a teacher of ancient history, culture, or languages voices an opinion that runs counter to the ever-onward mentality of the pro-tech argument. It’s a bit like humoring that one guy you know who insists that his music sounds better on vinyl. It doesn’t matter that he also owns four thousand digital music files, a mountain of cassettes, limitless towers of CD’s and an eight track collection that’s nothing short of terminally embarrassing. You can’t bring yourself to see things his way on the topic of vinyl and actually consider whether he might have a point beyond the strength of his convictions. Because vinyl is old, and old things are useless. Ending is better than mending.
3. It is the opinion of those at the forefront of the virtual classroom movement that teachers such as myself need to conform or find other employment.
If we want to work, especially in today’s economy, we must fall in line. This is true, at least a little bit, in every job, and is an edict that I am happy to follow as long as it makes sense. And guess what?
I use technology in my classroom.
That’s right. There is a Smartboard in my classroom that enables me to access instantly photos of ancient statues, pottery, frescoes and mosaics for planned or impromptu discussions on ancient art. I can pull up entire works written by authors such as Cicero, Virgil, and Propertius to show my students what the fundamentals of the language look like in the hands of masters. I can download huge, colorful and detailed maps for free to supplement geography lessons, instead of paying hundreds of dollars for an unwieldy piece of paper that I’m not allowed to staple to my classroom wall.
All my students have an account with an online educational website that provides a platform for activities and quizzes. They complete several assignments a week through this website because it is a great way to get them to study daily, which is vital in learning a foreign language (and in fighting the stagnation that often comes with block scheduling).
I make slideshows for just about everything: vocabulary, mythology, culture, grammatical concepts. I update a Wiki every day to keep students and parents informed of what goes on in our classroom; students can see what they missed in absence, download classroom materials, and check on the status of tests and projects.
I also have a youtube account, with a Favorites list crammed full of documentaries on ancient civilizations and fun Ancient Rome-related videos.
These are all acceptable uses of technology, in my opinion, hence they are all forms of technology which I employ.
So why am I making an argument for a no-tech or low-tech classroom? Because the arbitrary push of technology for technology’s sake does not, in itself, improve the quality of education, nor a student’s ability to retain and build upon new information. All it does is allow a school to check off the box labeled “Does My Classroom Make the Fullest Use of the Next Big Thing in Technology.” And that’s not quality education–that’s falling prey to trends and fads, which most educators worth their salt argue staunchly against.
Bottom line: teachers should be able to make their own decisions about the level of technology they employ in their classrooms, free from the fear that they will be deemed obsolete if they choose a low-tech or no-tech path. Ideally, administrators would stand behind the decisions of the educators whom they are employed to support, instead of pushing for a goal that has less to do with educational standards and more to do with keeping up with the Techno-Joneses (the Jetsons?).
My name is Magistra Anachronista, and I am an unrepentant proponent of a no-/low-tech classroom. Discuss.