Thursday, December 17, 2009

Technology: Mostly, Indifferent

One idea that I have had for cutting costs is to reduce the technology in the classroom. The problem with that idea is that a lot of the funding for technology is coming from dedicated funds--so it can't be used for staff costs.
I'm lukewarm on technology for several reasons, but the primary one is that I don't think it makes teachers actually teach better. Very few teachers use technology in a way that makes outcomes any different.
Conversation with my dad (a retired professor):
Me: Interactive whiteboards are all show.
Dad: But they are really cool!
Sure, they are cool. But do they improve reading? math? Does my son know more math than I learned at the same age with a regular chalkboard? I don't think so.

Assorted Stuff has some interesting thoughts on the subject.
Assorted Stuff posits that if you could change the teacher-directed educational structure, you could probably integrate technology into teaching, and teach better.
I think that's an interesting thought, and one that project-based learning theory supports. On the other hand--direct instruction has its place, and maybe teachers shouldn't try so hard to incorporate technology into what is otherwise exactly the same exercise that it would be without technology.

And here is an example:
One of my children's teachers has a blog where he posts the assignment (write a response to the piece we just read), and they all post their responses. Do you think that really improves the thoughtfulness of the responses? Do you think it makes things easier for the children? Does it make my child understand the piece better? No, No, and No. (It did, however, let me see that the teacher writes poorly.)

Teachers: if you are going to use technology, please use it to do things that you couldn't or wouldn't do without it (for instance, build a visual model of the outcome of a physics experiment). Don't use technology just because it is there.


  1. I'd guess that the point of the blog is that the students read each other's responses rather than just writing for their teacher. Not sure if it is implemented that way, but that would be the advantage in my eyes. My son's class did a group slide show for Multicultural fair and did it in Google Docs. Each kid had to contribute 3 slides on their particular topic. We really enjoyed reading through the other kids' slides before my son added his. The kids could have just sent the teacher their three slides and had her incorporate them all together but this way it felt a lot more like a community project.

  2. In regards to the last example...if a teacher posts that assignment and asks the students to respond and then respond to each other (discussion type format)they receive genuine feedack, they learn from each other, become better communicators (even digitally) and this is something that a paper and pencil assignment wouold not provide. Not only that, they would never get the chance to learn from each other or learn to see things in any other light except for the teachers. (That is if he provided feedback.)

  3. I agree with both of you--if the assignments included responding to other people's comments, that would be different, and in fact that is a cornerstone of online/distance learning. That was not an element of this assignment, and looking back at last year's blog, I don't believe it was ever part of any of the assignments. (Even so, in a classroom there are other ways of commenting on each others' comments that don't involve technology.( One of the benefits of a blog is that you bring together a virtual "community" that doesn't otherwise interact. In a classroom that meets every day, you don't need that technology to interact.

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  5. I defintely understand where you are coming from in that particular assignment. I think there are many assignments that can have an advantage because students can interact with each other and question each other and therefore learn from each other by using these tools such as blogs.

    I also think that there are SO many other Web 2.0 tools that ENHANCE learning further. It is a is not the assignment or the lesson and when used CORRECTLY and with the proper training the lesson can reach even more learners in your classroom...and isn't that the goal?? You are teaching WITH technology not teaching technology.

    In response to "Assorted Stuff" I disagree that the excercise is "exactly the same" when technology is used. There is no possible way that an excerise that is physical or one-dimensional is exactly the same as a multi-dimensional excercise. Especially when you are working with "digital natives" that become excited and engaged with an assignment simply because they get to use cameras, video cameras, computers and websites. In a way you disguise the "educational" "boring" aspect of it and they take it and run. Either way you succeed at meeting the objective...and again, isn't that the goal??

  6. I like your description of "teaching with technology" as opposed to "teaching technology." Some teachers get dazzled by the technology, and that's not really any different from planning a fun activity and forgetting what the objective is!