Part of the ongoing 1 Thing series.
I’m a rule breaker. Okay, that’s a lie. I’m not a rule breaker, but today I’m breaking the rules. I sincerely believe that there are two things that all teachers should know about teaching with technology. Why two things? Maybe because I like to use the word juxtapose and I think that there are two very valid points here; two points that might seem like a bit of juxtaposition. So, on with it, I suppose.
Technology has come a long way, as have the teachers that use it and the students that learn from the use of it. We are living and teaching in another generation. A generation that sees more television, plays more computer games, and understands more about gadgets, devices, and web concepts than we would have ever expected in our lifetime. This is one of the key reasons that teaching with technology is such an important way to not only engage our students, but to relate to them as well.
So, what’s the one thing? Well, one thing of the two things. Technology can change your classroom dynamic. It can engage students and hold their attention and foster exploratory learning, creative learning, life changing learning. Take for example, webpage creation and its benefits. Students express and challenge themselves creatively using color schemes and graphics all the while employing language skills for the web text. Now, spice it up a little and add a problem solving component that allows students to solve math problems on their websites and the sites of their friends. With one project, students are exposed to as many as three subject areas, accessing prior material knowledge, and working cooperatively in the form of peer feedback.
That’s not the only way teaching with technology can change your classroom dynamic. Using technology outside of the classroom can change the way you do things inside the classroom. Teachers can use spreadsheets, data collection, and computer based graphing to determine what their students know, where they are struggling, and what they can do to improve student understanding. Technology outside of the classroom can also be used as a way to communicate with parents and to keep them up to date with what is going on with their children. Not to mention, that a classroom website can encourage parents and children to work together at home thus improving learning and relationships in both settings.
Now, what’s the second thing, the juxtaposition? Brace yourselves. Technology cannot replace good teaching and good teaching methods. It just can’t. We know that a good lesson consists of three things: good planning, what you want kids to know, and how you’re going to get them there. Just because you have a computer in the room doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t plan how you’re going to use it. How does it enhance your lesson? What are the outcomes? What’s the learning? Technology is a lot like a textbook. It’s a resource. They’re both good resources depending on how you use them.
Let’s think about the typical use of technology in the classroom. The class reads a novel and compares it to the movie. What’s the learning? Did we discuss it? Did I initiate and facilitate challenging conversation? There’s a great point and shoot multiplication game on mathisfun.com. The class plays it for twenty minutes. What’s the learning? Do they understand the concept of multiplication? Technology shouldn’t be used as a way to keep kids busy or to fill time. It should be used as a part of a lesson, a way to enhance a lesson. It should be used to suck students in, to capture them, and motivate them to do more, explore more and to want to know more.
So, there it is. My technological juxtaposition. Teaching with technology can change your classroom dynamic inside and outside of the school. It can get students and parents involved in their learning. It can change the way you teach, the way you plan, and the outcomes of your planning. Using technology is a sure fire way to reach the generation of students that we are teaching, but it can’t replace good teachers. A computer lab with 150 brand spanking new machines is awfully nifty, but it can’t compare to an effective teacher that plans, plans, plans student learning and the way they’re getting there.
About the Author
Emily Witt, a former student and preservice teacher of Clif’s, graduated from the University of Mississippi with a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction. She spent two years teaching in the Mississippi public school system before moving a little further south. She is currently teaching third graders in the heart of the Colombian coffee region, learning Spanish as she goes, and wondering if it might really be possible to change the world.