Web 2.0, social media, technology integration, digital tools…these are buzz words that we hear everywhere from professional learning classes to the local newspaper. What does it all mean? More importantly, why? Why? Why?
Teachers are asked this question: “How are you using technology in your class?” more often than you think. Some administrator, technology guru, or written directive suggested that you, as a good teacher, should integrate technology into your class. While it may be a dirty little secret among teachers, we all know that some people use technology because they have to. The flaw with this motive is that technology is never actually diffused into the learning environment, it is just a prop.
Doing a quick visual sweep of the classrooms at my new schools, I notice lots of LCD projectors ready to be used. I wanted to get excited immediately! When I begin to ask how they are used, I learn that they are mainly used to show lists of PowerPoint notes for students to copy, show movies, broadcast drill and kill grammar sentences, or display comprehension questions. The technology is a tool for the teacher! All of those things could have been written down on a chalk board twenty years ago. The technology makes it easier for the teacher now. Is that what passes for Instructional Technology? Perhaps that should be called Teacher Assistive Technology. I am not bashing the occasional PowerPoint; I plan to show a few myself. I am questioning how this type of technology use became a substitute for what could be Integrative Technology.
Let’s take a critical look at the how and why of technology integration. In my humble experience, technology has a major advantage over other tools. The technology engages the students in a different way than reading it or a live lecture does. Why? Well I don’t know how it happened, but students today are wired differently than students were fifty years ago. They have access to digital media 24/7. They live and breathe through social networking. They entertain themselves through TiVo and DVR. They don’t even go outside to race or play sports; they pick up a controller or stand on a balance board to automate the experience. Everything is fast paced, in short chunks, and students are in control of how and when they experience content. Is school like that? No. It is the antithesis of what students have been trained to enjoy and excel in.
As teachers, our expectation needed to be bringing that content into their world. How do you make Gatsby engaging? A thirty minute PowerPoint won’t do it. A WebQuest would have been my answer ten years ago. As we get ready to head into 2011, the answers must rival Facebook, YouTube, and gaming systems. We have to engage them in ways that they recognize. Teachers think it is about making it fun. Sometimes reading a book on a topic you don’t like won’t be fun. While we cannot guarantee fun; it should be accessible and allow students to do all of those things that their experiences and senses have been taught to do best. Remember? Fast pace, short chunks, and give students power to control some part of it. In my opinion, that is a major goal and benefit of technology in the classroom. If my desired technological tool doesn’t fit any of those descriptors, I fail to instantly slap on a label of effective technology integration. If the technology’s sole purpose is to save whiteboard space, I say just call it what it is: Teacher Assistive Technology.
Which type of technology do you plan to use in your classroom, Assistive or Integrative? I think it is time to reflect and consider what your technology use is really about.