Here is a great post by Melissa Edwards. I find this dillema to be so true: teachers are asked to use a tech tool and to make it fit with what they’re teaching. Or a teacher may find a cool tool and in wanting so much to try it, they find a way to just “make it happen.” Read this thoughtful post, it may ease your mind on how to effectively use tech in your teaching. ~EMP
When you use a technology tool for a lesson, do you have a good reason to use that technology or are you just using it because it is “technology” and you feel like you are supposed to use it? I remember learning about a “new” technology tool and then going and figuring out what lesson I could teach so that I could use or show that technology. I quickly came to realize that an educational topic should drive a lesson, not the use of a technology tool.
In education, we are in the business of learning. I feel teachers do whatever is needed using whatever materials and resources they can to best meet students’ needs, whether it involves technology or not. Student needs should be the driving force behind a lesson, not the “need” to show off a “new” technology tool. I think that teachers need to be exposed to a variety of technology tools so they can choose which one best fits with the educational lesson being taught (if technology can help … if it can’t, don’t use it).
While going through my google reader, I came across a blog post with the title “Tim ‘The Toolman’ Taylor” on Kyle Pace’s blog. Listed below are several quotes from that post that really caught my attention and prompted me to write this one.
- Showing, not just telling – If a presenter is sharing a new and great tool, back it up with how it can be directly related to the content being taught. Concrete examples should be provided. Like I said during EdChat, “If the tool is only being seen for its glitz, then the person sharing the tool didn’t do their homework beforehand.” Teachers need to know how it’s going to enhance student learning. Students should be able to go home and easily explain this to their parents. Not just go home and say, “We used Google Docs today and it was cool.” Ok, so it was cool; we all know that, but how did it enhance your learning experience?
- Kristen Winkler said during EdChat: “Tech is the spice, content is the dish. Tech accentuates learning but the content needs to be in the center of the process.” I thought this was a great way of putting it. Teachers, you already have the “dish” down pat, but maybe it’s time to try a new “spice”?
- Elana Leoni also reminded us that we should “Always have the students’ needs in mind. Just because it’s cool doesn’t mean it’s an effective learning tool.”
- Mary Beth Hertz said during EdChat: “Write the lesson first, choose the tool last.”
- Deven Black said it very well: “Teachers, like students, need a safe place to fail using tech in teaching. Failure is the key to learning.”
Thanks for the kind words about my statement. Not only do students and teachers need a safe space to fail, we need the time to fail and learn from that failure. More and more I see time, particularly the lack of it, the biggest impediment to learning. The answer is not extended days or shorter summer breaks. Instead, we should severely trim the curriculum and revolutionize our notions of subjects and related content.
We are increasingly in possession of a collection of technologic tools that more easily allow for individualization of learning opportunities, methods and objectives, yet we retain 19th Century notions of discrete subject areas and common learning.
As we switch from individual to collaborative models of thought, learning and creation, it is less important that any one person have a great stash of learning as long as the collaborative team does. Additionally, the collaborative team need not be in a common classroom, school or continent. We need to help students learn (as opposed to teach) how to collaborate, how to find collaborators and how to use technology to do all that and also present the results of the collaboration.
For these reasons and more, teaching the use of the tools is at least as important as anything else we do in school. When I was in middle school we had typing lessons and in high school we were taught mechanical drawing, both examples of teaching the technology and not the content. Doing so was important then and it is important now, perhaps even more so as there are so many more tools and so many more ways to use them.