To tech or not to tech

So how far should I take this technology thing? My classroom is a lab. Not unlike other labs in the school – of course the one important difference is the cool factor of macs – but we have a few cameras,  so that puts us firmly into the “no excuses” zone for using technology.  I can’t say, “I am working towards introducing technology into my teaching practice”, I now have a moral obligation to utilize the technology in the room to enhance the learning experience of all the students in my charge. But what does that mean?

Yes, students can create multimedia projects to say any number of things. What are they really learning here? Are they learning truly transferable skills that they will use going forward? I think so. It is the big ideas, the larger concepts that kids go away with and apply to other areas – the ability to make insightful connections, to find value in others’ opinions, to translate stories and ideas through their particular lens, to understand how they themselves learn and reflect on the meaning of learning and experience. We use technology to support this type of down and dirty, problem solving, creative thinking type of learning.

Students deconstruct how movies and documentaries are made, look at design and story elements, how the director reveals the story, the importance of point of view –  how each can challenge us to view the world differently. Then, they apply this to create their own work – the critical part – where the understanding is formed. They will walk away with this learning.

So do we jump on the bandwagon and retrofit every classroom?

An interesting article about how technology is used in the classroom in the Washington Post. The bottom line is, the whiteboard (or any other technology that the teacher is using) is just another tech gadget if all the teacher is doing is using it as a blackboard. It really points to the fact that, it is the teacher in the room that makes the difference, not the gadgets. The students need to use the technology in their learning – that is what will make the difference.

I have students go online to get assignments and course notes (web site), share information, discuss and showcase their work (wiki), as do many of you. This is speaking their language.  Many already have their own blogs, channels and web sites and multiple gadgets to keep them connected Our society is immersed in technology – it is unavoidable now.

If students take post-secondary education, they will be required to navigate their way through the school portal for online registration, courseware, assignments, discussion groups, lectures and evaluations.  All will require cooperative group work and much of this work could be accomplished online. Most workplaces have site specific software programs that students will have to familiarize themselves with.

If we can purchase the laptops or tech devices for students to use in the classroom, wonderful. But if not, why not let them use the tech that they already have? According to a study by CDW Canada (CDW-G hired O’Keeffe & Company to conduct an online survey of high school students, high school faculty and district IT professionals in May 2010),

60% of students say faculty regularly use technology to teach; but just 26% of students say they are encouraged to use technology throughout the day

only 57% agree that their high school is preparing them to successfully use technology in college and/or the workforce, 17% disagree.

The gap is a glaring one and the message is clear – students want to use technology to learn with.

But, I need to go a step further. I need to get them to collaborate more with other students beyond our classroom. Why not use this to engage them in more meaningful pursuits – to deepen their understanding of other perspectives and cultures, to enable their voice in dealing with complex social issues, to collaborate on a global scale.

This is easier said than done – even with the lab. Our most successful attempt so far has been with McMaster students who actually visited the class and other projects with students within our school. I have registered with ( Flat Classrooms for September – we will see how this turns out.

I have had the students create their own blogs around an important issue, but it is very hard to get any significant traffic and interaction is the point, after all. A good idea is proven through the argument and fresh air of debate. Maybe there is a way for more students within the school to collaborate on cross-curriculum projects – even across grades. There is certainly enough diversity within the school itself for students to learn from. Perhaps working more closely together they would develop more empathy and a stronger sense of community.

In the end, I think it is the teacher that can guide the use of technology so that it enhances understanding of a concept/idea and empowers students to find their own understanding. Of course, with a classroom full of technology, I can only hope that I can continue to develop my expertise in order to ensure that this technology is fully utilized to enhance learning, engage students and prepare them for a future which certainly realizes more technology.


About Village Pet Food Shoppe

Media Arts and English high school teacher who loves using technology to enhance learning and engage students. Experiments with online learning and teaches in Brightspace.
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1 Response to To tech or not to tech

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