For most that grew up in the 80’s when we hear the words Gatekeeper and Keymaster we automatically here the Ghostbusters theme song and picture Sigourney Weaver (Dana) and Rick Moranis (Louis). However, over the past few months the term “gatekeeper” has come up in many discussions I have had with classmates and colleagues about content knowledge and educational technology. The term “gatekeeper” is used by Larry Cuban in his book Teachers and Machines:The Classroom Use of Technology Since 1920,“The impact of any technology pivots upon its accessibility, purpose, and use. If a television set sits in the classroom unused week after week, its influence is lost. If television consoles rest on shelves in closets for most of the year, excepts for infrequent trips to the classroom, the impact of technology may be insignificant.Thus, teachers are gatekeepers for instructional technology” (Cuban, p. 37). Teachers as the “gatekeepers” of content knowledge is brought to attention in Teachers As Architect: Instructional Design and Delivery for the Modern Teacher, “In the 20th century, teachers were masters of content knowledge. Thier primary job was to help students learn subject matter content...However, today students can learn anything anywhere, anytime. Access to information is immediate. Content experts are only a click away” (Smith,Chaves, Seaman, p. 16). So what makes a teacher a "gatekeeper" and what makes a teacher a "keymaster"? How do we move or reluctant teachers forward?
Technology is here to stay. Many technology enthusiastic teachers are embracing and using technology to teach students how to create and play, be innovative, collaborate and communicate with others, use critical thinking and problem solving skills, gather, evaluate, and use information, along with using technology properly both ethically and operationally (just as stated in the National Technology Standards for Students). These teachers understand that “technology creates real opportunities for students to improve their performance over time” (Collins & Halverson, p.27). Technology is present and used purposefully in their classrooms with a learning target/objective in mind. The technology is almost invisible and routines make management and transitions seamless.
These teachers realize that they are not the “gatekeepers” of the content and teach in, or “envision schools where students are working on realistic tasks and adults play a supportive role to guide them to new activities and help them when they encounter problems.” (Collins & Halverson, p. 29). These teachers are our “keymasters”. They know they are not always the experts.They unlock the gates of learning. They allow technology to take learning outside of the four walls in the classroom.
On the other side are the technology skeptic teachers. These teachers believe that.
“technology makes life more difficult for teachers. It requires new skills that teachers often have not learned in their professional development” (Collins & Halverson, p.6)
They are the teachers Cuban describes above, that only use the technology when it is convenient or when they are being evaluated (they need a check in the box), AKA “gatekeepers”. These teachers are keeping technology out. Do I think technology needs to be used all day every day? No. But I do believe teachers owe it to students to “adapt schooling to prepare students for the changing world they are entering” (p.9). As an instructional coach I move from classroom to classroom; in one hour I could see the same lesson taught in three different classrooms. There is a huge difference between the lessons when technology is being used and being use properly. In a classroom with technology the students are more engaged, have more to discuss, and ask more questions. In a “gatekeepers” class teachers are talking, students are sleeping, and no learning is happening.
Why? Is the questions I keep coming back to. Why are teachers so reluctant to change? I have a few ideas:
- They are at the end of their career and it is too much “work” for them to change.
- They are afraid of making mistakes and looking vulnerable in front of their students.
- They are still in the mindset that technology is not completely trustworthy.
- They do not use technology much themselves
My list could go on. So how do we unlock the gates? We can offer lots of professional development, we can model and co-teach with them, we can be on call to help them with technology is not working, we can share ours and others success and learning, we can invite them to a Twitter chat, we can force them with evaluations...
In the end, I think it comes down to being afraid to fail. They ARE the gatekeepers in their classroom, they ARE supposed to know everything and look like they are always in control. As I continue to work with these teachers my goal is to show them that it is OK to fail in front of your students. You model a lot when you fail successfully with technology. You model how to problem solve, think on your feet, communicate, and devise a plan B quickly. We need to unlock the gates and keep the keys to open new ones.
I would love to hear your comments and thoughts on making "gatekeepers" into "keymasters".
Collins, A., & Halverson, R. (2009). Rethinking education in the age of technology: The digital revolution and schooling in America. New York: Teachers College Press.
Cuban, L. (1986). Teachers and machines: The classroom use of technology since 1920. New York: Teachers College Press.
Smith, S. K. (n.d.). Teacher as architect instructional design and delivery for the modern teacher. Eugene, OR: International Society for Technology in Education.