No Time, No Funds by Tom Whitby

By Tom Whitby

This was a comment that I posted on a discussion that extended to this post.

Time and funding are becoming old chestnuts in the Tech ed discussions that have been going on for over 20 years now. With Web 2.0 tools available to teachers, funding is far less an issue as a software concern. Hardware has come down so much in price, that it is less of a factor than it has ever been. Consequently, funding should become less of an issue in the discussion.

A big stopping block for educators is always the time factor. It is a legitimate concern that must be considered. It also needs to be placed in perspective in regard to being a question of professionalism. We chose Education as a profession. As a profession we reap many benefits and experiences beyond that which a simple job would offer. There are also huge responsibilities that come with professions.

As educators the commodities we deal with are knowledge and learning. Neither of those commodities stopped being generated the day we received our degrees or teaching certificates. As long as knowledge and learning continue to grow, we, as professionals, have a responsibility to keep up or at least stay relevant.
I would not go to a cardiologist who has not kept up to date on procedures in the operating room. I would not employ a Lawyer who was not familiar with recent laws that might affect my standing. Why would I send my child to a teacher who has not stayed current with the world for 10 years, 5years. 2years, or even 6 months in this age of knowledge growing exponentially on an hourly basis.

Technology is a tool of education. As educators we do not teach computers, we use them. Our students learn from that modeling and also employ the tools to be lifelong learners. As knowledge doubles every six months we need to spend some time keeping up with what we can to maintain relevance. We must remember we are not teaching for our past or even for the present, but rather, for their future. That fact forces us as professionals to spend some time learning skills and developing competencies in areas that were not even a dream as we were younger students learning and growing. Time goes on as we continue to learn and grow, if we are truly educators teaching for the future needs of our students.

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Tom Whitby

Tom Whitby is a Professor of Education in Secondary English, Linkedin group founder and owner of Technology-Using Professors, TWITTER-Using Educators, as well as NING-Using Educators. Join over 1500 educators in several active groups and discussions in his newest ning, the Educator PLN!

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Shelly Terrell

Shelly Sanchez Terrell is a teacher trainer, author, and international speaker. She is the host of American TESOL’s Free Friday Webinars and the Social Media Community Manager for The Consultants-E. She has co-founded and organized the acclaimed educational projects, Edchat, ELTChat, The Reform Symposium E-Conference and the ELTON nominated Virtual Round Table language and technology conference. Her prolific presence in the educator community through social media has been recognized by several notable entities, such as The New York Times, UNESCO Bangkok, Edweek, Converge Magazine, the United Federation of Teachers, the 140 Conference, Mashable, English Central, Tefl.net, and T/H/E JOURNAL. Her education blog, Teacher Reboot Camp, is ranked as one of the top 10 language teaching and technology blogs and the 50 best blogs for education leaders. In 2012 find her book, The 30 Goals Challenge for Educators published by Eye on Education and participate with over 7000 educators worldwide in this online professional development course that helps educators develop Personal Learning Networks and accomplish social media and teaching goals. Find her on Twitter, @ShellTerrell. Shelly has taught English language learners at various levels since 1998 in the US, Greece, and in Germany. She currently presents and hosts workshops on integrating technology effectively with young learners and adults. Shelly holds an Honours BA in English and a minor in Communication with a specialization in Electronic Media from the University of Texas in San Antonio and an Honours MA in Curriculum Instruction ESL from the University of Phoenix.

19 thoughts on “No Time, No Funds by Tom Whitby

  1. Tom,

    As always, I agree with you for the most part. There is a certain subset of schools where the constraints are very real. I’ve worked in a middle school of 1,000 kids where there was 2 laptop carts for the entire school. It’s not that cost of hardware hasn’t come down tremendously, it’s that sometimes hardware gets lost in the proverbial sauce. Buying hardware may not be a priority for the administration. This year in New York City, principals are barred from purchasing laptops for their schools. They can only purchase stationary desktops.

    That being said, I still don’t think that hardware is the biggest issue in regards of shifting to a twenty-first century model of education. There is still a large core of teachers who believe that they’re “not good at computers” and never will be. They have little to no interest in learning about new tools, much less integrate them into their instruction. In my opinion, that attitude is where most of the “no time, no funds” excuses originate from. I’ve met principals who are more than happy to equip their teachers with new tools so long as their confident the money won’t go to waste as the equipment collects dust in a closet somewhere.

    In many other professions, resolving to not change with the times and adapt to new innovations would be completely unacceptable. Accountants who insisted on sitting down with a graph notebook and a calculator while their peers moved onto Microsoft Excel and Quicken wouldn’t last very long. What makes it worse, is that there are kids’ education at stake.

  2. I completely buy into your argument about being relevant and being up to date.

    There are a huge number of teachers who I work with who could care less about using technology or see it as extra stuff that they can get along without.

    I have come to believe that teachers, especially at the high school level, tend to focus on their subject rather than education and teaching. For instance, I am a math teacher and most of the math teachers I work with are really focused on the math but not so much on the teaching. I never hear any discussions in my department about teaching methods but I always hear about math problems and math. To carry that further, the math that we are teaching is extremely old and was developed before modern technology was invented so people naturally think that since mathematicians in the past didn’t need it to discover algebra then our students today don’t either. (Alternatively, older people will say they learned math fine without technology so people today can too.)

    The love affair with math is great but I think we are educators first and math teachers second.

    If people were thoughtful about the education and teaching part they would see how far behind they are in terms of using technology and more importantly how vital it is to use these tools in educating students in all content areas.

  3. Teachers are busy people. No doubt about it. But I learned a long time ago that “not enough time” is a poor excuse. A valid excuse is “not high enough of a priority” because if something is a high enough priority people will find the time.

    When working on my thesis for my SpEd in Educational Technology, I researched our existing technology staff development program. I thought we had an excellent program, with 400+ teachers filling around 1200 “seats” in our after school, evening, weekend and summer offerings. I found that about 70% of our teachers did not take a single workshop, and the other 30% were taking multiple workshops. When we offered a stipend of $10 per hour for attending (plus graduate credit that they had to pay for) we increased our participation only slightly. Teachers had other jobs, coaching and activity supervision, families, summer jobs, etc. and the workshops were not a high enough priority.

    That is when, based on the research I had done, we took the training to them. We have 8 technology integrators who work with the teachers (not the students, unless the teacher is present) during their contracted time. We have 100% participation, and have made tremendous strides in getting our teachers to improve their teaching and learning with technology interventions.

    1. @Craig Nansen, What an outstanding solution for the “not enough time” excuse. Our district does something similar with one teacher in each high school who works half-time to help teachers integrate technology. Thanks for sharing.

    2. @Craig Nansen,
      I loved your solution for helping teachers increase their knowledge of educational technology. I am in the middle of writing my dissertation and sending in a resource to work with teachers in their classrooms is a big part of my argument and solution. Everyone of the teachers in my case studies requested help in their classrooms after formal training was complete. Just as districts have place literacy, math, or reading coaches in classrooms, teachers need technology coaches as well.

  4. While I agree with this for the most part, I have to wonder if you’ve witnessed what some teachers have to deal with on a daily basis. I’m speaking about the time issue here. Time is a concern for some — not all, but some — teachers because they are dealing with circumstances that are far and beyond what the general public would probably consider to be “normal” or “appropriate” in a classroom. I’m talking about the kindergarten teachers with 30 kids, half of them non-English speakers, the other half with undiagnosed learning disabilities. I’m talking about the HS special ed teacher who has 6 back-to-back classes of 20 kids, each a different grade level, and half of them with behavioral problems, with only 30 minutes of prep time — in which to plan, grade, and attend to administrative duties — each day. These teachers may not be the majority, but they certainly exist, and they deserve more than what they are getting. If I were one of those teachers, I can tell you that technology would be a priority only inasmuch as it was needed to get me through the day.

    You may not go to a cardiologist who has not kept up to date with surgical procedures — but are there any clinics or hospitals that exist where the opportunities for keeping up to date simply are not available for a cardiologist? Does such a situation exist? What I’m getting at here is that I often think that the system needs to change in order to enable teachers to not use the “I have no time” excuse any longer.

    Like Jason, I have worked with plenty of teachers, who see the tech as “extra” and just can’t be bothered. I would probably say that more teachers like this exist than of any other kind. But I don’t want to forget about those teachers who would have to choose technology over sleeping, eating, and childcare if it meant keeping their job. I doubt they’d remain teachers, quite honestly, and then what? Well, I guess in the types of schools they are in, those kinds of teachers are considered disposable anyway.

  5. I have a hard time with some of the generalities posted here. Saying that most teachers do this or don’t do that is counter-productive to finding a solution. What is needed is acknowledgement of the concerns that teachers have and creative solutions to those problems. I agree with Adrienne that there needs to be a change in the system before the time and money excuses will go away. For our school/district, time is the commodity that is in the shortest supply.

    This year our principal said that every teacher should have a website by the next school year. We are spending this school year working on training to help teachers meet this goal. Teachers are paid their hourly rate for attending this class and can be paid for up to 8 hours for this time. (We used to call this Professional Development, now it is Evidence Based Learning). I teach a monthly class to our faculty on how to use web tools to create a class website. This week’s class had a veteran English teacher who is a 30+ year veteran of our school and who will be retiring next year. She is there because she wants to learn and she wants to model life-long learning and technology integration to her students and peers.

    This is a new and exciting direction for our school and the difference is that our administration has made technology a priority both in allocation of school funds and, most importantly, in providing the time and training for teachers rather than just expecting them to squeeze it in to their very busy days.

    If you will pardon my speaking in generalities for a moment, I think most teachers are professionals and active learners. In my experience, if you give them the time and make it a school (or district, state, or national) priority, teachers will get the work done.

  6. Please! This is an example of one of the pro-technology arguments that gets my goat. Again, the idea is peddled that if a teacher is not using technology, they are not worth their salt. That ain’t necessarily so.

    The difference between a cardiologist and a teacher is that medicine is an evidence-based profession underpinned by heavy ethical scrutiny. I would agree with Tom if it could be demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that his central assertion – good teachers MUST use technology- were correct. In fact, if we look at most of the responses here -and elsewhere- we find that most of us are quite happy to put words in the mouths of our teachers. Craig Nansen’s response is based around the difference in his school’s approach when they moved from just surmising to looking at the hard evidence. Tom’s original post suggests that the teachers are failing; Craig’s research indicates that it is more likely that the institutions are failing the teachers.

    The argument that funding should no longer be an issue is revealed for what it is by the inclusion of that modal verb five words into the sentence. What should happen is not always what does happen and when money is concerned, this can pretty much be taken as a general rule. I have yet to work in an institution that has decided to redirect its money away from profit to investment in providing a 21st century workplace. Perhaps I can’t pick my employers?

    And time – if I have understood Tom’s implication, teachers should take on more than they get paid to because this is what professionalism means. Now, to some extent I agree, although I might quibble, once again, with the inclusion of the modal. But I’d like to point out that the average salary for a lawyer in the UK is £70K; the average salary for a doctor in the UK is £38K; the average salary for an accountant in the UK is £35K; the average salary for a teacher -NB not an EFL teacher- in the UK is £29K; of course, the average salary for an EFL teacher in the UK is £22K. To put that into perspective, if you put the words “fast food” into the same tool that I am using to check these average salaries, it returns £24K. Now, I’m a bit more reluctant to tell teachers that they should or that they must give up their already unpaid free time to teach themselves about a tool that they may fear or have doubts about. Because they are professional. I suspect that their response may be considerably unprofessional.

    I am also concerned with the way that Tom, a Professor in Education, appears to have blurred the boundaries between knowledge and information. He writes of how knowledge grows hourly and doubles every six months or so. It seems to me that he is referring to information. It also seems to me that he appears to be implying that the presence of information leads to the presence of knowledge. This is so at odds with what all of us know about education that I cannot believe that Tom would stand by this assertion. It may be that he has not considered this distinction before in this context; it may be that he was writing in a less-considered manner than usual; or, of course, it may be that I have radically misunderstood the point he was making.If this is the case, then I apologise in advance!

    Of greatest concern is the unquestioning response that such flawed arguments find in the world of education. We who should be experts in the area of critical thought accept them unquestioningly – more often than not because they meet our fundamental criteria: I agree because this is how I feel. This is more damning for education than the absence of technology in a teacher’s daily practice.

    I like technology. I use technology. But I am critical about technology and I am a long way from ever telling a colleague that unless they are using technology, they are a failing teacher. On the other hand, I am more than happy to stick my neck out and suggest that a teacher who fails to approach the world from a critical perspective needs to look long and hard at themself and ask themself on what grounds do they lay claim to the title of educator?

  7. I like the idea here — though it is important to remember that participation in most western societies – to go past office automation is a voluntary. I agree, it is a priority issue – but also one of leadership. Few of even the most passionate teachers in technology are in fact instructional designers — or have experience in dealing with teachers as adult learners — typically this lead to the ‘scare’ presentation – keep up or else. Many teachers are already a success and doing well inside their systems demands — the signals of change are in social media, however if we really want to point at areas of technology that will change rapidly for K12 – it will be social games and augmented reality – not blogs and wikis. In that regard, even the most ‘edtech’ are often reluctant to enter virtual worlds or games … my point being that the leap from MS Office to Google Docs is just a small step.

  8. I agree with everything Tom says, in particular the analogy of going to a Cardiologist who hasn’t been keeping up. And I agree that “funding” is no longer an excuse – there are too many cloud based tools that are free but can be used in collaboration, learning, etc.

    It is interesting that most comments have focused on technology in learning as involving a tool of some sort – hardware, software, etc. One of the definitions of technology is “the terminology of an art, science, etc; technical nomenclature. I would propose that teaching IS a technology, with or without the tools. Simply (or not so simply!) updating pedagogical skills, such as switching from sage on the stage to guide on the side, fits in that category. More hands on learning, more collaboration, more real life experience integration, and better two way communication are all part of the “technology of teaching.” I’m the biggest geek around but for those who mask their fear of shiny new tools with other excuses, there are always ways to improve and update the art so that people learn and retain knowledge in a more efficient, enjoyable, and long lasting way.

  9. Thanks everyone for visiting and Tom for writing this post.

    One reason I love when Tom posts is because he gets people speaking, thinking, and rolling with ideas. I think if a discussion is never started then this is counterproductive because we let things remain the way they are.

    I have found that technology has actually saved me a lot of time and has been enriching for my students. They are the leaders and I facilitate and watch as they show me how creative they can be. They teach me how they can become responsible for their learning and are motivated to invest time in their learning. One technology I have used that has saved me a lot of time is my Iphone and it is so much easier and portable than carrying a tape recorder, video camera, and cd player in my classroom. These are all things I used to carry around. Also, my students love to search and we do it all the time from my one Iphone!

    This is one of several examples and I happen to have bought the phone for me so we only have one in the classroom, but it has made quite a difference in increasing my students’ performance and motivation!

    Thank you for sharing your ideas and continue to speak about what you are passionate about because only not having a discussion is counterproductive.

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