Saturday, September 17, 2011

Is Technology to Blame?

Lately there has been a lot of talk in blogs, articles, and in person about how technology is not increasing test scores. I think there are a few problems: what engagement is, teacher training, and what is expected of students.

Engagement is when students are involved in solving a critical problem or answering an essential question. Children sitting silently in front of an interactive white board while their teacher or classmate manipulates it is compliance. Children using an iPod, iPad, or laptop to play a game to practice addition facts or letter sounds is practice. Practice and listening skills are important, but should not be confused with engagement.

There seems to be two camps on teacher training when it comes to tech integration: play to learn and be trained to learn. Often times teachers are being trained to use tech tools in low-level ways. Using an iPod to record student fluency is on the lowest level on Bloom's. Using clickers to check if students know what a synonym is - low on Bloom's. Fluency and language are important. Training educators to use tech in this way can set the expectation that this is the only way to use it.

Once teachers feel free to use technology in complex ways they can guide their students in doing so as well. It can be great to have our students using Glogster, Flips, Blabberize, and more! If our students are expected to cite evidence when writing on paper, that expectation needs to carry over online. If students are expected to explain how they solved their math problem when completing a worksheet that expectation needs to carry over online.

What do my students now know that they didn't before? What can they now do that they couldn't before? How can they now be that they weren't before? Keeping these questions in mind as I plan for my students ensures that I not only teach them 'the basics', but that I also engage them in 21st Century Skills. And doing this ensures that they are learning how to communicate effectively, collaborate with others. It also ensures that I engage them in critical thinking; high levels of Bloom's. Using technology is one avenue for them to be creative. Learning from my mistakes over the years have taught me these essential elements in integrating technology into the classroom.

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