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BELLTONES: Terrific Tried and True Techie Teachers!

By Mary Ann Bell - Posted Sep 1, 2011
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As a person on the cusp of the Baby Boomers, I freely acknowledge that I am not as young as I used to be. I can remember the first TV I ever saw in a store window, as well as the first set my family had. My dad was not exactly an early adopter, so we had to wait several years before we got one. I remember those room-sized computers with punched cards. I get nostalgic about the days when you could pop the top of an Apple IIe and monkey around in there and even fix things. It is interesting to have lived through the emergence of ubiquitous computer use. I think it provides a perspective that causes me to be grateful for all the tools I can use in my daily life, both at work and for fun.

Furthermore, I do not appreciate the generalization that older/veteran/seasoned (or whatever adjective you want to insert) educators are by default less interested and adept with technology. Bill Gates is 55 years old, and Steve Jobs is 56. For goodness sakes, Seymour Papert is past retirement age already! And Neil Postman is in the big computer lab in the sky.

Don’t Dismiss Us Veterans

Generally speaking, generalizations are not particularly useful. To dismiss veteran teachers and librarians as out of touch and uncomfortable with technology is not just inaccurate but insulting too. I am a proud and unrepentant geek who loves to try new gadgets, websites, and programs. I love the interactivity of Web 2.0 resources, and as to Web 3.0, bring it on! I do not think I am alone. In fact many technology leaders who I admire and follow are close to my age and even older. Older geeks are not freaks! We are all around you!

I decided I wanted to know more about my peers and our level of adoption of computer technology in education. As is my frequent wont, I checked with colleagues via LM_NET, TLC, and EDTECH, with questions about veteran teachers and technology. I always benefit from generous participation by listserv members, but with this informal survey, I sensed I had struck a nerve. I received the second-largest number of survey responses that I have ever attracted. I also received emails thanking me for even asking these questions. One librarian responded with the following:

Thanks! I am with you 100% on this. A colleague (young) in my doctoral program was planning to write her dissertation on this topic but I am proud to say that after meeting me, she has changed course. I can run technological rings around her! (But I know I don’t know it all—though I do remember sitting in the computer lab at Indiana University in 1975 or 1976 gathered with friends around a computer screen. We had gotten a call on the ten-cent a call pay phone in the hall that our friend in the computer lab at Purdue University was going to send us our very first email. It finally arrived and we read it in PINES—the green text on a black background—and then rushed out to the pay phone to call and tell him it arrived after our 20 minute wait). 

Of the 556 respondents, 393 were librarians, 114 were classroom teachers, 67 were technology specialists, and 20 were administrators. They can be broken down by age as follows: 12 were in their 20s, 46 in their 30s, 111 in their 40s, and 252 were in their 50s, and 134 were, like me, 60-plus!

The Survey


This article is available in its entirety in a variety of formats — Preview (free), Full Text, Text+Graphics, and Page Image PDF — on a pay-to-view basis, courtesy of ITI's InfoCentral. CLICK HERE.

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