On using technology
As I was driving home from school recently with my kids, who attend the same 1-to-1 school that I teach at, my older son asked me if I use computers in my classroom. I said, no, not really. But after thinking a moment, I added, “no, wait, my students use their computers almost every class.”
It’s true. Every class begins with students responding to a question on Edmodo, and every class ends with students going on a Moodle journal to reflect on that day’s class. So they do use their computers every day. How could my initial reaction be so mistaken?
I think it’s because I make a conscious effort to manage computer use, and use it only in an appropriate and therefore limited fashion. I put a heavy focus on student-led discussion, and I specifically instruct students to keep their laptops closed during whole-class discussion, which means that 90% of the time my students are not on their computers. Because my students don’t use their computers all, or even most, of the time, I didn’t at first think of my students as “using technology.”
I thought of this again last week as I observed a Middle School colleague teach a 7th grade history class. She is a very tech-savvy teacher She is a constant user of Evernote, for example, using it both to distribute materials and collect assignments. Student homework is often via the internet, and her assessments take advantage of the possibilities for student creation that computers offer. But if you saw her classroom, you wouldn’t think of her as a “techy” teacher. Like me, she is very deliberate in her computer use. Students did use their computers in class, but only for particular tasks and for limited times, and even then she was walking around the room, keeping an eye on what students were doing. She wasn’t using technology in thhe classroom–she was managing it.
It’s easy to think of a classroom that “uses” technology as one where students use their computers heavily and continually. I, at least, seemed to have that idea when talking with my son. And I’m sure there are classrooms like that, some of them very effective classrooms. But based on what I see at my school, that is a limited way of thinking about “using” technology. The point of technology isn’t to use it; the point is to use it in a purposive fashion.
Image credit: 37signals.com