Today I attended a technology conference and as the keynote speaker got up I expected to hear all about the cool, new , innovative technology tools and programs that were available for our schools but to my surprise I got so much more. The topic of her presentation was connectedness and she spoke about it in two different contexts:
- She started off by showing the connectedness of technology and good teaching by making it clear that technology can not stand alone and that its purpose is to enhance instruction. Good teaching is still essential and technology can never take its place. She stressed the connectedness of good teaching enhanced with technology to create a classroom environment where children get the opportunity to drive their own learning.
- Connectedness was also discussed as it applied to the children and their world. She spoke about how technology needs engagement and should not be done in isolation. Technology should be used to enhance what children know about the world, to research things that can help them grow and to get ideas about ways to help others. We want our children to use technology to collaborate with others, to lift up others and to change the world.
As I reflected on her words, I started to consider the way we use technology. At times, we use various computer programs to have children practice reading digital text or to review
math concepts. I started to question the connectedness of these activities:
- Were students working in isolation?
- Were they driving their own learning?
- Were they just completing a task because they were told they had to?
Unfortunately, in cases like these, technology was not being used to enhance the learning instead it was being used as a means to an end. Along with these types of activities,we are trying to incorporate technology into our reading and writing units of study. My students often use technology during inquiry to guide their learning. Technology is a key element in the celebrations that occur at the end of these units whether it is: using digital text, videos, presentation formats, digital photography, videotaping and/or blogging. It becomes clear how productive these activities can be to students.
Children who are actively engaged, who are allowed to drive their own learning, share their ideas, take positions on different issues. They can use technology to elevate their expert status, teaching others about things they felt were important, capturing important images, videotaping each other as they collaborate. In essence technology is a vehicle by which they can create something worthwhile. It is the authentic work of students, which promotes connected experiences to their learning. Indeed, technology enhances our instruction in so many ways. This is not surprising. Teachers want to promote personal power of this type of learning lends itself to high levels of engagement – allowing children to “try on” these adult roles through work that is developmentally appropriate. .
Reflection is key to growing as an educator. I am thankful to the keynote speaker for highlighting this topic as it leads me to ponder technology and how it is being utilized in my classroom. This is a new line of thinking for me and my reaction to this encounter was eye-opening. Next steps are to consider ways to create meaningful classroom environments that do more than use technology as a perfunctory construct. How can we be more creative with technology? It’s ok not to have answers it is the pursuit of the question that will bring us to that next level.