Okay, so there’s a fast-growing bush called technology integration growing smack-dab in the middle of my classroom. Can’t ignore it; really should make use of it; but it’s just so huge and out-of-control that no one knows what to do with it. Time to tackle the pruning. Cut away what is not useful right now (don’t worry; it will grow back) and leave the leaves that benefit the most students at this time. I need to create a topiary that fits with my environment, so how do I shape this thing?
While reading the article, “Shaping Tech for the Classroom,” found on Edutopia’s website Â http://www.edutopia.org/adopt-and-adaptÂ , I found myself waging a running battle in my head. Yes, of course, the students want constant access to email… “Â The number-one technology request of today’s students is to have email and instant messaging always available and part of school.” But would providing this to the students actually enhance their learning? I have witnessed what happens when students have access to email and IM at our school. They chat, gossip, gripe, game; they do anything but schoolwork. Yes, it would be great if they would start IMing about the assignment or start Skyping sonnets while looking up references to Elizabethan English as they speak, but it’s not happening yet. Their favorite use of the digital tools is communicating with friends and working on their own self-images.
Technology is not always the answer. We need to discern when it is the answer. Automatic grading of tests could certainly save teachers plenty of time, but only if the assessment is originally constructed in such a way as to allow the automatic grading. Creative and authentic assessments, however, are often more organic and individualized and require a pair of human eyes to give a fair evaluation. Snip, snip. When and where?
It was inspiring to read about the educational possibilities that our current connectivity could bring to the students. As the article states, “If we really offered our children some great future-oriented content (such as, for example, that they could learn about nanotechnology, bioethics, genetic medicine, and neuroscience in neat interactive ways from real experts), and they could develop their skills in programming, knowledge filtering, using their connectivity, and maximizing their hardware, and that they could do so with cutting-edge, powerful, miniaturized, customizable, and one-to-one technology, I bet they would complete the “standard” curriculum in half the time it now takes, with high test scores all around.” Yes, that would be great. I noticed that the only time my own child had time to pursue this kind of self-motivated schooling was when we home-schooled him for half a year. During that time he researched the solar system and molecules. He ended up writing and illustrating three books about a water molecule named “Feenix” who helped explain, through his various adventures, the water cycles, the states of water and the atomic structure of a single water molecule. And that was when he was in First Grade.