Using Technology in the Classroom

One of the takeaways from this past weekend at Educon 2.0 has been that there are lots of cool tech tools available, but not every tool is right for every job.

The tools, the availability of almost any and all information at your fingertips means you can use almost infinite examples in the classroom.  It also means kids can use shortcuts like Sparknotes to short cut assignments.  Teachers can try to control this, and run papers through websites like turnitin.com to look for plagarism, but this isn’t the answer.  The answer is to re-engineer assignments so they require original thought, and don’t require regurgitated responses.

But this also requires teaching beyond the script, and doing some hard work to generate new, thought provoking work and assessment of student knowledge. The technology and the connectedness is not a problem per se- the problem is teaching kids to use the tools, for teachers to use the tools as another way to communicate.  One of the teachers at SLA, for example, requires kids to think about broader, essential questions to compare books they’ve read, for example, such as how does the environment affect the actions of characters and how does this relate to your experiences?

I was excited to hear teachers at SLA talk about feeling compelled to use all this tech, but learning quickly how to turn it off, too.  They are learning a balance, and which tools work best for which assignments.  They are learning that they need to teach kids skills such as how to do a great presentation, before judging and grading them on presentation.  The kids need to understand the content, and express it, but the “test” and assessment needs to be about the material, not the mastery of the tools themselves.

The tech is not good or bad- it’s there.  And rather than being pro or con, we have to look at it  as a fact of life, and teach kids and teachers to use these tools effectively, for education, entertainment, and the mashup of the two.

The biggest obstacle to change is “I can’t” and the internal limitations we place in our own way.  We can’t blame tech, or students for a situation.  Instead, we have to look at what we can do to be the change we want to see in the world, as cliche as that may be.

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