It is Time to Become a Full Time Computer Using

Teacher and/or Student: In my opinion.

By Roz Seymour, EdD, RN, BCS

Recent headlines, no you are not hearing it here first but! From Mobile Government “Education Upgrade” (Jones, 2003) comes a case study reporting that students and teachers use wireless laptops everyday in an elementary school in rural Oklahoma. From Health Data Management (p. 14, 2003) this title appears “I.T. a helpful tool during tense SARS lockdown”. A story about how the I.T. department in a geriatric facility in Toronto made Web sites available for staff and patients during the period of lockdown. It tells of staff assigned to answer email form patient's families, companions and others who could not enter the facility. From my local news paper (the Johnson City Press , 2003 p. 6b) this title “Tiny transmitters likely bar code replacement” an article on nanotechnology describing computer chips as pinpoint sized with tiny antenna. And then there are all the headlines like “Keeping patients home”; “Clinical Guidelines gain Mobility” about physician use of personal digital assistants; “Electronic Records: Protection on the Road to Patient Safety” suggesting that computers improve care, streamline processes, trim costs, and drive down medical errors; “Tablet PC's Heed Nurses Needs” to improve care, documentation, and communication and “In the HIPAA Compliance Race” which all of us in health care are concerned about all in issues of Health Data Management (May, July, & August, 2003). Moving on to Business Week we see in the June issue; “Five hurdles for biotech” (2003) addressing of all things the knowledge gap among scientists. If you want to read about harvesting molecules, the human genome right along with how the biotech industry will sustain investors' confidence this one is for you. I want you to notice none of these articles came from Web sites. That's right they are all print journal articles.

Now I know you are all wondering why an editorial on Technology and education would began with the above paragraphs. Well, imagine how frightened some faculty and students could be when they hear that they as well as kindergarten, grade school, high school, and college are all going on line, will have to use computers every day, and will need to examine many of the issues posed above using a computer to do so. The previous headlines make it is easy to assume that all faculty and students of today are likely to have access to fairly sophisticated computer systems and that none of the above things they will need to do or the headlines make them bat an eye. This editorial is about setting those false assumptions on the path to truth.

The truth is that we have been trying for 20 years to make educators and students into computer-using, computer literate people and have basically failed. Yes, there are some success stories coming from the techies and the innovative pioneers but I promise you that teachers have not changed themselves or their basic approaches to educating or using technology and students have not changed their basic approaches to learning. It is clear that what technology use has been integrated is as usual, the young of yesterday and today growing up and bringing their - in this case - technology-based lifestyle with them while most of us ‘waited long enough' and it is finally happening.

Suddenly it seems, students and some faculty peers think they should be able to complete all assignments and work from home. They resent anytime someone expects them to do what is outside the realm of technology. Paying a visit to an on campus computer lab, going to a library for a journal, being in ‘the office' or ‘the classroom' and coming face to face with students and peers seems a burden. Some say the computer has taken over those functions. As an early adopter I say to you: “only for a few years and then we will know the true value of combining computer use with face to face”.

We also seem to think that non-computer using teachers can teach using computers. We have missed many points to come to this conclusion. Oh, yes we teach using some computer programs which have forms we can fill out and the student can read. We call that education? Telling and showing what to do has never been education and never will be. I believe that teachers must be technology users if they are to be technology using teachers. They must use computers in their personal lives to have that knowledge that comes from working on a computer alone and with others. They must have exposure to those computer frustrations any computer user gets. The have to make common errors : failing to save, damaging a disk, accidentally deleting something, not knowing that Java has to be used for chat, not knowing the ins and outs of a piece of software, how to download from online to a personal digital assistant (PDA). They must have felt the desire to toss the computer into the street. How else can one empathize with the student, first exposed to using a computer for learning, a student who did not have the opportunity to bring technology knowledge along with them? How else can you identify with the student who is the returning student, the life long learner, the second or third career student, and yes still and even the new high school graduate who never had access to a computer at home or at school (they still exist).

What this all boils down to for me is that teachers have not made much progress no matter how many faculty development programs about Microsoft this or that, Blackboard this or that, Web CT this or that, or even e-mail this or that they have attended. No further along than 20 years ago are those of you who still think computing is little more than procedures and lists of click this or cut and paste that, lists of things to do, keys to punch, or drivers to update so the computer will work. One cannot be shown how to use technology. It is more than procedures to learn that someone can show you. Skills and competencies are made up and empowered by the holistic set of our past experiences not in the rituals of task execution. Using technology requires education not training. It requires immersion, enough experience to acquire a deeper learning, and conceptual understanding. It is beyond the ritual of task execution.

Computing for teaching and learning, ladies and gentlemen, faculty and students is critical thinking and the use of discipline-specific intuition, new strategies, and making a personal commitment to change to becoming a full-time computer user. It is fundamental change. It is thought changing, society changing, ethics and law changing. It is changing the way we do business, get mail, and buy a car. It is changing the famous ‘fabric of our society'.

Contrary to popular opinion the computer is more than a tool. A toaster is a tool for making toast, a wrench is a tool for tightening a bolt, and a hammer is a tool for hitting a nail. None of these tools are necessary if you do not have bread to toast, a bolt to turn, or a nail to pound. The computer on the other hand is indeed an environment not a tool. We live, work, and play in the computer environment even when we do not have to. It is a fundamental part of our lives. This is true now, in the present and will become truer in the future so stop waiting for the young to bring it along to school. Become a full-time computer user, now so you can become a full time computer using teacher and/or student.


Galloway, J (September, 2003). Fifteen computing misconceptions .

Weintraub, A. (June, 2003). Five hurdles for biotech . Business Week, 61-66.

Gillespie G. (August, 2003). In the HIPAA compliance race . Health Data Management, 35—36, 38-40.

Schuerenberg, B. (August 2003). Tablet PCs heed nurses' needs . Health Data Management, 64, 67.

Briggs, B. (May, 2003). Protection on the road to patient safety . pp. 35—36, 38, 40.

Schuerenberg, B. (May, 2003). Clinical guidelines gain mobility . 66, 68.

Johnson City Press (Wednseday, July 6, 2003 , 6B). Tiny transmitters likely bar code replacement.

Jones, J. (2003). Education upgrade . Mobile Government, 24, 26-27.