Is It Ok?

In my prior experiences I have seen a few extremes of using technology.  From a personal standpoint technology has always been very challenging for me so I tend to be apprehensive to use it.  Recognizing this and reading about the needs of a 21st century learner has made me realize that technology is something I need to begin to adopt in order to better prepare my students.

One extreme I have seen is at a pre-school I worked in.  I had been there for years and had never recognized the lack of technology in the classroom.  One day a teacher made a comment about the “Heads Up!” app and how she thought it would be fun for her students and good for her classroom.(An example of how to play: youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eOgi-yh2b9g) She said she wished that she could use it in class, and mentioned how she felt it was a shame she couldn’t use technology in the classroom.   The comment struck me as odd and I overheard another teacher comment that she could play the game herself, copy down the words, and still have the children play with notecards or something similar to that. After thinking back, I had never seen technology used in any of the classrooms I had been in for three years.  From my understanding, the school didn’t allow technology so the teacher couldn’t play a wonderful and engaging game.  A teacher on another teaching blog (http://techieteachertales.blogspot.com/2013/06/thanks-ellen-degeneres.html) commented on how great “Heads Up!” would be to help children develop their description skills and I can only imagine how much it would encourage class interaction and word and letter association.  I agree with the teacher from the pre-school that is truly is a shame they couldn’t use the technology and in this classroom the teachers weren’t even given the option to use the technology.

On the other side of the spectrum, I also tutored in a classroom that had the students log on to computers to use a reading website and a website called MobyMax for math.  They spent around 20-30 learning from the teacher then spent around 20-30 minutes on the computer with very little teacher interaction.  MobyMax claims to improve math skills by 1.5 grade levels for every 40 hours spent on the site (http://data.mobymax.com/mc/documents/MaxMax%20Research-Based%20Pedagogy.pdf).  It was great that it differentiated the problems to each student but made me question the effectiveness because sometimes I had to coax students through around 20 minutes of them trying to open the program.  They were stalling and didn’t want to log on or we simply had technical difficulties.  The program itself likely offers benefits but the time wasted certainly solidifies the prior method of keeping technology out of the classroom.  It makes me wonder though if our society is becoming so technology based as mentioned in the National Education Teaching Plan that allowing students to practice logging on the the computer is also beneficial even if it took away from learning math.  This thought makes me think it was important that the teacher included the online program in her lessons but I still question if it would have been more effective to keep the students focused off of the computer.

My third experience with technology was in a class here at Illinois that I was apprehensive to take due to my lack of technology skills. I took Writing with Video as an advanced composition class and we were required to create and use a blog and all of our assignments required us to create, shoot and produce videos and upload them online. This experience though is different from the other two because I was a participant in the class, not worrying about the teaching aspect.  Not only did I learn how to use a new program but the different types of projects we completed forced me to stretch how I thought about things and also allowed me more creativity to expand on and explore different ideas. We are surrounded by technology all the time and now that I know how to use a little bit more of it it has helped me learn new ways to communicate my ideas to others.   In this short video, (http://www.wired.com/business/2013/11/bill-gates-bill-clinton-technology/) Bill Clinton and Bill Gates discuss connectivity and, while what they are speaking about is somewhat broader than schools, what they say is still relevant.  I think kids are naturally curious so if we equip them with the skills and resources to access all aspects of technology, especially the internet, it will allow them to better connect with the world and learn even more about what is going on around them.  Technology may give them the materials to a better future though, simply giving them the technology may not be enough, it is definitely a good place to start.

This article, “Why Integrate Technology into the curriculum?” (http://www.edutopia.org/technology-integration-introduction) outlines many of the benefits of using technology. As I mentioned before from my prior experience as a student I felt I learned more in my Video class than any other because I was challenged to express myself and my beliefs.  I was given creativity, allowed to explore the technology and was encourage to use  multiple platforms to complete my project in the way I wanted.  The article states that it will help students be more prepared for the “modern office” and I think that is very true. If students can benefit so much why do teachers shy away from technology?  Why do I shy away from technology?  I think it is because of a few reasons:

  1. We don’t know how to use it and become frustrated or overwhelmed
  2. How do you handle situations when the assignment can’t be turned in because of technical difficulties?
  3. How do we grade the use of technology or lack of? Should we grade the use of technology?
  4. Most importantly, it hasn’t been done before!  Using technology in an extremely revolutionary way (like my video class) has the potential to completely change the classroom and the typical structure of the classroom. Older teachers might be opposed to these changes and new teachers have usually been in very few classrooms with a different structure.  It would change the way classrooms are structured and we aren’t sure how to do it.  What if it doesn’t work? What will others think? What if we fail?

What if we don’t? What if we don’t fail and we can change the face of education?  Technology can be scary and overwhelming.  I don’ know if it is fair to demand all teachers to include technology, especially if they do not have a good background in it, but I think it is a necessary to prepare our students.  There are so many resources, like Heads Up!, and great online programs; technology can allow teachers and students to think out of the box.  Technology definitely has it’s problems and as teachers that is something we will have to work though.  But if teachers can balance between non-technology based teaching methods with an effective use of technology our students might be stronger.  Like I said before, I am the first one to take out a piece of paper and write something down versus typing it on the computer and I think students can learn the same material on a white board, but school is all about preparing students for the future and being expressive.  At least some technology should be included in the classroom because students need exposure and it can help teachers teach more than what they can say within the walls of their classroom.

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