Sunday, September 28, 2014

Reflective Teacher Day 28: The technology conundrum....

     This is a great prompt. There has never been a time in education where there has been access to so much technology available to teachers: from Google Drive to almost all students having access to a device, even if it is their own. There are so many tools available on line to assist in what teachers do it is sometimes overwhelming. This wonderful time comes with some caution that has always been around since I have started my teaching in 1993: how do use technology without it taking place of the content I am supposed to teach?
     I remember one of my college professors complaining that when teachers showed a movie in a history class that it was Hollywood and not history. So even something simple as showing a movie, which I have done, comes with criticism. Some of my professors concern came from stories of students where teachers would just pop in a movie, regardless of whether the content was relevant or appropriate for the class. I understand that concern. I have seen this too. However, does that mean that you should never show a movie in a history class? I believe the answer to this question is the same answer to any question about what you do in your classroom: it depends on whether or not it supports the curriculum/content. That answer still applies today.
     In there interesting look at the teaching profession in the 1970s, Teaching as a Subversive Activity, Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner argue that what we do in our classroom matters. "The medium is the message" was their thought. In other words, what kind of message are we sending to students if we show movies (much to my professors chagrin) that have no or a weak connection to the content? What kind of message do we send to students if we give notes on an overhead for an entire class period? What kind of message do we send to students if we have them put a few Power Point slides together where they just cut and paste information from the internet? I have always believed that what you do in your classroom should not only be relevant to the lives of your students, but should not stray so far away from the content that students lose sight of the subject. It's about balance.
     Let's be clear here: the content/standards should drive what you do in your classroom. Whether you have a high stakes test attached to the content or not, the standards are the standards and they are what should drive your teaching. I know there is a lot of concern and complaining about the Common Core and the new set of standards contained therein. Standards are standards. Give me anything you want my students to know and I will teach them/it. In that regard, is the uproar over the new standards that big of a deal? Nah. Now I know end result of how the assessment looks like might be a different subject, but the content is the content.
     I believe that technology today is a tool to add to your bag of teaching tricks. However, it again depends on how you use it. Never stray from the content due to the lure of some new piece of technology. You know your content. Use these great tools of technology to simply enhance what you are doing in your classroom. I also believe that it is just as silly to reject wholeheartedly any inclusion of technology thinking it cannot enhance what you already do in your class. It is folly to reject the tools out there under the rationale that it either cannot help you or due to the fact that some other teacher did not use it properly. There is, trust me, something out there that you can use in terms of technology that can help you in your classroom with your content.
     I know that sometimes in education people believe that initiatives come and go and that all you have to do is wait it out and it will pass. However, the integration of technology is not an educational fad. The students are using this in their lives right now. From my experience students are eager to embrace the use of technology. It is everywhere in the world and there is no better way to show students how to use it when they go into the world than your classroom! 

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