I've inadvertently, and inexplicably, become a guru of sorts. I sometimes feel like I barely have myself figured out–but nonetheless, my willingness to experiment with technology and use it in my instruction has led other to seek me out for advice. The dirty little secret? Most the time those confident answers I offer are simply my willingness to offer conjecture and speak it with authority–I have no special training to back it up other than the time I spend on my own just playing with these "cool toys."
The dirtier little secret? When it comes to incorporating technology into the classroom, I may be computer savvy and a digital native, but more than that I'm a technology skeptic.
Too often, when I see technology for the classroom, I only see ways to go the long way about accomplishing a goal which could have reasonably been accomplished "the old-fashioned way." (Full disclosure: I'm a 31-year-old education blogger who came of age with the internet…so I may be entering my curmudgeonly years a little early.)
For me, it's about results. I'm not talking data, I'm talking return on my classroom-time investment. Some recent articles compiled for the Accomplished Teacher SmartBrief assembled nuggets ranging from the discovery that few computer-based literacy development programs actually net a measurable increase in reading comprehension–to the revelation that teachers are still, like me, not so sure about this movement to incorporate certain technologies into the classroom.
On one hand, there is the compelling but perhaps hollow argument that our students as digital natives must gain the skills that will enable them to navigate that world. However, I've never really understood exactly what that means. The ability to build a PowerPoint? Knowing how to code a website? How to edit a video from their cell phone and post it on youtube? Or, are we concerned with proficiency in blog etiquette? The ability to use Google intelligently and not get suckered into buying something you don't need? What, exactly, are the skills that we want to impart unto our students through our use of technology–and are those skills necessarily better transmitted through technology?
I am not fundamentally opposed to the use of technology. I have a static class website. I have created Nings for literature circles and wikis for the writing process and even SurveyMonkeys for assessments. I use PowerPoint every day and have used computer-based reading assessments (which, like the research above, were great for diagnostics but not useful for actual advancing skills). Despite all this, aside from the rather cliche uses of classroom technology (read: caveman PowerPoint), I have yet to meet a technology tool other than a word-processor that actually facilitates the accomplishment of my language arts learning goals in a means more efficient than I can do in my brick-and-mortar classroom with those old crusty bookthingies, graphite, and paper. Am I sitting by some whale oil lamp with my feather quill as some spectacular ship is passing me by?
Aside from the transmission of information on a website, blog, or PowerPoint, how have you used technology in a way which helped you accomplish learning goals and instructional targets in a way more efficient and more effective than traditional, unplugged classroom instruction?