Finding the Right Mix with Classroom Technology
A common drumbeat in American education is that newer and better technology (CHROMEBOOKS! iPADS! SMARTBOARDS!) will be the key to increased student performance. That if we just add…one….more…thing…we’ll have the results we’re looking for.
That’s a mistake, and it’s largely the result of relentless marketing from an educational technology industry that knows we have budgets dedicated to technology purchases.
So, does that mean that we shouldn’t have any technology?
No, it means we should have “just enough” technology, but more importantly we should have the right attitude toward its use.
Machines, when used as the primary driver of classroom work, will ultimately fail us. How, then, should we approach the use of technology?
Be a conscientious consumer
Remember that the advertised promise of a product will never match the results — and classroom technology is no exception. Insist that your salesperson put you in touch with schools using the product right now. To strengthen this point, speak only to schools that purchased the technology two to three years ago, and see if a) they’re still using it and b) that it is helping the students.
Don’t imagine machines can replace teachers
Many schools are toying with different teaching/learning structures regarding the use of technology. One common model is having students work on individualized computer programs that are tailored to their needs. Students then work with the teacher in small groups as necessary.
This is a great use of technology as it allows specific help and enables differentiation for the child. The downside is that teachers sometimes feel marginalized because they’re no longer working with an entire group at one time. The best teachers adjust their practice to the tools at their disposal.
Expand learning beyond the class period
One of the greatest benefits of today’s technology is that student access to learning can be extended beyond class time. Teachers today can publish their notes, create a podcast or even post a recorded lesson for students to view later.
Think of how beneficial that is for the student who needs to review the class contents or was absent that day. A colleague of mine has brought this to life by recording her science lessons using www.screencastify.com and then posting for her students to review at home.
Broaden your information sources
For generations, teachers were the most important factor in the classroom as they either had all of the necessary information in their head (the Sage on the Stage) or they were the only members of the class who could explain the class text.
With the explosion in access to information, teachers are no longer the only people with the information, so they can send the students in the proper direction to read and review as necessary. The teacher can then lead the students in developing an understanding of the information or facilitating their working together.
Open-source the work
Many teachers are using technology today to post all the necessary information — curriculum, study guides, completed tests, example essays, etc. — on easily accessible websites for their students. All of the information is easily accessible, can be looked at by the students at their own time and schedule, and serves to reinforce the idea that the information isn’t the class. Rather, the way the information is used is the purpose of the class.
Listen to your students
The best, and most critical, consumers of technology are your students. Reach out to them to see what they use and how. They will know what makes sense to use in the classroom, and what should be discarded. With all the choices at their disposal, today’s children are quick to move on from tools and technology that are clunky and unhelpful.