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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Technology in the classroom - Teacher interviews

I am finding your teacher interviews and your responses to them insightful.  There is a mix of teachers that embrace the use of technology in the classroom as well as those that are reluctant users.  The same thing can be observed in the district where I work and at the schools that my children attend.  In my district at the very least teachers must use the computer to communicate with staff and parents, take attendance, do report cards, and access streaming video.  We use the computer to access tools that come with our textbooks and we hopefully produce presentations that are shown through our projectors.  We are lucky to have a technology specialist that is up to date with the latest research about technology tools that create a positive learning environment for all of our students.  Something as simple as a classroom sound system that projects the teachers voice to all corners of the classroom can improve the learning of all of the students and help with the overall stress and health of the teacher.

From the comments that some of  you have posted I sense that you do not see the advantages of using technology in the classroom at all ages and levels.  In this I do not mean that you have to stop doing all of the traditional learning activities and throw away the pencils, color crayons, and scissors.  Student creativity cannot be lost or suppressed.  Just the opposite should be happening.  The use of technology in the hands of the teacher or the students should increase the levels of learning and creativity in any classroom.

Web 2.0 tools are on the extreme or cutting edge of technological use.  But every teacher needs to embrace using their personal computer to communicate, research, create, and share information with all the stakeholders in their community.  Educators that remain in their classroom using only the textbook provided for them are short changing the students in their care.  Technology is just another tool to use with students.  For some it will be a bit blase but for others it will be the only way that you can get them to be interested in what you are doing. 

Since I started working in my current position I have been blessed with an abundance of technological tools.  I realize that I am lucky to be in this situation but even when I did not have access twenty years ago I still looked beyond the classroom to find resources and tools for my students.  The local library, pen pals, television documentaries, and/or local community members were able to provide extra resources that I used to enhance and build exciting and motivating curriculum for my students.  I have found that technology tools, whether they be hardware, software, or internet based have allowed me to expand the activities that I am able to ask my students to try.  Are we always successful?   No, but the experience is always worth having.  Do I think that technology will replace a good classroom teacher?  Absolutely not, but I do know that a teacher that does not embrace the use of technology at some level is short sighted, not adventurous, and not preparing our students for a successful future.

Everybody uses technology in today's society.  Communication, tax filings, job hunting and applications, let alone at your jobs, and for recreation.  We do not want our students joining the work world without exposing them to all the tools that they will need to be successful.  Reading, writing, math, thinking, listening, and collaborating are all skills that have been taught forever and need to be continued.  Twenty-first century education is not about changing the essential tenants of education but in expanding how we deliver what we do teach. With the use of technology students can move beyond their local community to observe, comment on, relate to, and interact with the world much more easily. 

I personally believe that students learn best when they are the creators and not just the sedentary receivers of information.  Due to the technological interactions that students have outside of the classroom we risk losing their attention if we do not take advantage of the technological resources available to us when we construct our lessons within the classroom.

Please, please be open to new ideas.  Please be willing to talk about and experiment with using technology with your students.  Technology is here and we cannot ignore it.  Be adventurous in all aspects of your teaching.  Please be a leader and not a follower.  Yes, it takes time and yes it does not always work, and yes
sometimes it is hard but the results are worth it.  My students return to me year after year thanking me for incorporating all modes of learning and letting them learn to learn in a fashion that meets their individual needs.
Even if I am uncomfortable or not the expert I have to remember it is about them, the students, and what they need to be successful and not about what is familiar and easy for me. 

If I provide a model for my students as a life long learner hopefully they will also become life long learners and pass this on to future generations.  It is obvious to me that all of you are willing to use technology in your everyday lives so accord your students the same privilege.  Choose carefully what you will do, talk about it with other professionals, and be adventurous. 

If you were my child's teacher this is what I would want from you.  As a parent I need you to be forward thinking.  I need you to challenge my children.  I need you to prepare them for future interactions with the world.  I need you to give them alternatives to standard lecture, notes, and textbooks.  I need you to show them the world. I need you to inspire them.  I need you to let them use the tools that they are using at home. Luckily, we are at a time in history where we have tools to do this.  Take advantage of them and make these tools work for you in the classroom.

Yes, I have ranted on a little too long and I have an obvious bias.  But I am a classroom teacher.  I have children in the school system. I am a life long learner. I am a citizen of the world. I am willing to change and grow.  I am willing to blend the traditional with the new.  I look forward to working with you if you are also willing to grow and learn and change as well.