Earlier this year, I posted a conversation starter that began with a tweet and led to a larger discussion around technology in the classroom. What fascinated me with this thread was how polarized the discussion, although the consistent theme was around student learning, for either ‘side’. There have been further tweets about technology, but I thought I would break down the themes into: those that use technology without solid pedagogy; those that do not use technology, but engage students; those that integrate technology within a pedagogical philosophy.
To start, then, with those that use technology, but do not have a solid foundation of pedagogy to support their practice. This isn’t to say that their practice does not engage students in their learning. It’s just that their use of technology is more of a FAD (Fast Acting, Disappears). This thought started, as usual, with a tweet:
— Bryn Morgan Williams (@brynmw) April 5, 2014
Now, in some cases, it can be argued that technology is embedded in the learning outcomes, but really, the technology you choose for your students should follow guidelines that make sense to your situation.
For me, the technology should be:
1. Accessible: This could be multiple devices through 1:1, 3:1, BYOD, BYOT, or shared devices/technology (like rotating stations).
2. Redefine the learning: It should go beyond the “make a Powerpoint presentation”; the opportunities to share, globally, student work/conversations/interactions pulls in the authenticity of the activity/project. At the very least, it should modify the outcomes. See here for more on SAMR.
3. Allow for multiple entry points: There should be some form of differentiation for students at different levels of understanding of the technology; peer support; peer teaching; all should be involved.
4. Not change the learning standard: Technology should assist in the learning; either making it more accessible or allow for creative, authentic learning experiences; It should not redefine the learning outcome (or standard)
Teachers who are personally immersed in technology (through personal social media accounts, etc), the desire to bring the world into the classroom to help create a dynamic classroom environment is a large pull. By bringing in the technology, there is the engagement and relevance piece. However, without a solid pedagogical foundation for using technology in the classroom, that technology just becomes a prettier version of the pencil eraser top: fun to have, but not really an improvement.
I have witnessed some amazing work in the classroom with new teachers and technology. There have also been some amazing student learning in ‘seasoned’ teachers with technology. The difference that I see is that the seasoned teacher has a more careful discussion around the why of bringing in the technology, where the newer teacher might just want to try out different ways to engage. Neither is ‘bad’, but without the careful connections between the technology, the pedagogy, and the learning outcomes, the technology becomes an add-on and not an integral, embedded part of the learning.