“Synching Up With The iKid” by Josh McHugh is the cover article in the October issue of Edutopia, and what I would term a MUST READ for educators. McHugh shares that “A recent survey by CDW Corporation shows that teachers are more likely to use technology to ease the administrative requirements of K-12 education than to utilize it in instructional applications.” (Isn’t that exactly what I said in this blog only a few posts ago!) Later in the article he writes: “federal testing requirements consistently get priority over technology initiatives. Consequently, teachers spend most of the day in drill-and-practice mode…” which is probably why so much of the technology we see in classrooms are games, and or PowerPoint lectures.
A few years ago I had the opportunity to help develop and teach the curriculum for a technology camp based in a typical in-the-woods camp. The business man who funded the camp, stressed the importance of having a curriculum that encouraged students to be producers of media, rather than simply consumers. John Holt, in his book How Children Learn
stated: “It is a serious mistake to say that, in order to learn, children must first be able to ‘delay gratification,’ i.e., must be willing to learn useless and meaningless things on the faint chance that later they may be able to make use of some of them. It is their desire and determination to do real things, not in the future but right now, that gives children the curiosity, energy, determination, and patience to learn all they learn.” and I would definitely agree with that. Humans are naturally curious about their world, asking questions, seeking answers. With technology our students have the ability, at any given moment in time, to look for answers to our questions, or to at least find theories about the answers, and to share their own thoughts and theories with others.
Effectively using technology in classrooms means using technology in innovative ways to make classrooms dynamic environments of learning; Wiki’s, Blogs and Course Management Systems like Moodle
are some of the ways educators cited in the Edutopia article are making their classrooms and their teaching more dynamic. It talks about how the use of technology can begin to change the classroom into a place where children begin to construct their own learning. “When they open their classes up to the world; Power tends to move from the center outward…For educators accustomed to making and enforcing absolute rules, letting the inmates take part in running the asylum is going to take some getting used to. But in the end, the best way for students to learn about the world they live in is to have a hand in creating it.”
Today, sitting around the dinner table with a couple of college students, we got into a discussion about technology in the classroom. “What’s a SmartBoard?” was the question posed to me, as I had casually mentioned one in the discussion. I stood up, imagining there was one on the back wall, and began to demonstrate, with imaginary imagery, what a SmartBoard and its software can do. “...One of the most valuable and effective technologies a classroom can have...” was a statement I made and one I frequently make. It can make teaching dynamic and learning interactive. Then, I added, that the only other technology I thought that had that dynamic of an impact were Student Response Systems.
I know how hard my daughter has struggled with Calculus. I know how she’s left a classroom, thinking she had understood what the instructor had said, only to find she understood nothing… “You see” I said, “The instructor can give the lesson (using a SmartBoard, of course), and then ask the students a question that would let the instructor know if they’ve understood it. The students click in their answers and he can begin to get a picture of what they’ve understood and how they understood it. A graphical representation appears on the wall, that shows the responses as they are entered into the ‘clickers’. The instructor can address the problems right then and there: ‘Ok, so what did you hear my say? Where have I confused you?’” The students participate in their own learning.
The discussion became animated and lively, as the two of them began to talk about what it would be like to sit in a classroom in which the instructor used such technology. I heard a lot of “I wish…” My daughter talked about how this is the first year one of her professors has ever used the CMS to teach a web-enhanced course, and how much she likes it and how much she uses the CMS. “I wish all my instructors did that. She puts links up on the site, for further investigation. She says ‘If you’re interested in learning more about what we talked about today, I’ve posted a few web sites with information on this topic.’”
The two college students lamented that too many professors were still the “Sage on the Stage”. What I've discovered, however, is that it was easier to get professors to use technology than it is to reach teachers. Coming from being an adminstrator of Higher Ed, where technology was really making it into the classrooms in a dynamic way (even a small private college with financial struggles) to working in the K-12 environment that still uses relatively little interactive technology, I realized I had a HUGE hill to climb. There are many more hurdles in K-12 than I ever understood. But, here we go…