There are positives and negatives about my job. One thing that I love about being an instructional technologist is that I am constantly learning. I enjoy spending time on the net learning, collaborating, and networking with professionals around the globe. I learn something new every day and that is thrilling! For me participating in a webinar or reading through a blog is like a mini vacation. Nice while it lasts but then you have to return home to reality.
The reality is that since technology changes daily with new gadgets and gizmos, it is hard to keep the focus on what is really important in a lesson--what is important to an instructional technologist--i.e. instruction. If there is no other purpose for a gadget other than it is cool and new, there is really no purpose for the gadget. I feel that too often we buy up new tools and then look for ways to use them in the classroom. This is so wrong! It's backwards. What have the students learned if we come in with the state of the art equipment to video-tape and stream a lesson putting the focus on the equipment and the fact that we have streamed it without thinking about the lesson itself. Too often I have witnessed an amazing presentation done by students using a gadget or web tool. The presentation is awe inspiring! Then you ask the student about the content behind the presentation and get nothing but blank stares.
I have heard it argued often in my field that we need these new tools to engage the students. If we don't use these new tools then we are damaging the students. I think this sells the student short. I think students want to learn and want to be challenged. Of course they would like to play with a new gadget, who doesn't. But let's be real. Students want to be interested in learning as well. I have had the experience of bringing in a new gadget to do a drudgery task and the students roll their eyes at me. The task was not challenging and therefore not engaging no matter what gadget we used. Recently a student told me about when their dad opened a box and found an old gaming system from the 1980s. The student was entralled! It was much more cool than the XBox the student had. What made it cooler than the newer gaming system of today? I think it was the challenge of learning something different.
As caring educators and professionals in our field, we should determine the instuctional needs of the students and then decide on how to meet those needs. At that point, if a new technology will work, wonderful. If we can get by with an older technology that is wonderful as well. After all the instruction of the 21st century boils down to problem solving not how to use a new toy.
This is what defines a true instructional technologist: a person who cares about their students enough to plan out a thoughtful, engaging, challenging learning experience.