Tech Basics & Beyond

The Classroom Teacher’s Technology Survival Guide
By Doug Johnson
(Jossey-Bass, 2012 – Learn more)

 Reviewed by Rhonda Leduc

“HELP!!!  I’m drowning in technology lingo — and way too many computer cords!!”

Is this you? If so, Doug Johnson’s “The Classroom Teacher’s Technology Survival Guide” may be just what you need to help gain knowledge and perspective about technology and its uses in the classroom — particularly if you read this book in a group setting or with peer support. However, Johnson’s book is not simply a step-by-step, how-to guide.

Johnson takes a less direct, wider approach to addressing classroom tech. He helps teachers look at technology from a “big picture” point of view, including educating readers on what needs to be in place first in order for them to be successful users and facilitators of technology in the classroom.  Readers will find useful checklists to help you consider and consolidate the technology you currently have and evaluate your tech support. He also offers ideas on how to go about getting what you need to be a successful technology user.

Chapter Two covers the basic questions about technology, such as “what type of computer should I buy?” Johnson makes a good effort to answer these questions, but as technology is always changing and the terminology can be overwhelming, I feel the material in this chapter is an example of where the novice may get confused and perhaps frustrated. If you’re just getting your feet wet, you’ll benefit from having someone with more technology experience, or a support group, to help you through some of the issues he raises here.

Additional chapters focus on suggestions for technology use to improve teacher personal productivity (email, websites, etc.); ways to incorporate technology into current teaching practices; incorporating 21st century learning skills; strategies for managing hand-held devices and other forms of technology, and strategies for safety and ethical use of technology.

Tips, checklists and tables

Johnson ends his survival guide with his predictions for the future and a readings and resource list. Throughout the book, prominent “Survival Tip” bubbles can be found that give practical, common sense tips. While the title of the book implies it might be primarily geared to the novice technology user, there is enough material in it to provide useful information for advanced users.

I particularly like the various checklists that outline what competent users of a particular technology should be able to do. These lists inform current users of a technology who may not be aware of all of its possibilities and features. Another useful inclusion: tables that outline how a teacher can incorporate technology into their current practices. For example, a play or skit assignment can be filmed for multiple viewing, later analyses and/or editing, and saved for future classes.

What’s missing?

This book would benefit from a glossary of terms and more graphic images to complement the various technology tools and programs (e.g., PowerPoint, Twitter). And it begs for an accompanying DVD – or even QR codes – to which readers could refer for visual explanations, greater detail, or additional information.

Understand that the elephant can only be eaten one bite at a time (p. 199).

While some readers will likely enjoy and connect more to Johnson’s conversational tone than others, I believe The Classroom Teacher’s Technology Survival Guide serves as a beneficial resource for educators interested in expanding their professional skills and knowledge of technology use and would be an excellent resource for professional learning study groups and libraries.

Rhonda Leduc is a grade 6 teacher in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada with a particular interest in technology use in schools and connecting students to the world beyond their own. Rhonda has a Bachelor of Education degree from the University of Victoria and a Master of Education degree in Educational Policy Studies with a focus in Global Studies in Education from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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