It can cut through a tin can!
It can predict student growth!
Ever feel like the next educational tech trend is the Ginsu knife of technology? This Classroom, That Classroom, Which View, What View, iWhosit, and iWhatsit all have been proclaimed to be the latest and greatest thing to help teachers delver instruction, assess student learning and adjust to fit the needs of each and every individual learner in our classroom. Each new program comes with a bootcamp of instruction, a few hours of drink-from-the-fire-hose goodness, if you’re lucky.
What I want to know from all this is: Does this actually help our students?
If we’re spending precious funds on tech tools that help the teacher, how does this help our students to become the 21st Century learners we strive to create?
I propose something different. I propose that we invest in the people, not the programs, who are teaching our kids. I propose that we develop teachers who can teach the students to implement technology, rather than a generation of students who are used to being placed in front of a computer to click and scroll through their assessment.
Full disclosure, this is what I do as my side gig. For the past three years, I’ve been working with a few established entities, the American Modeling Teachers Association, the American Association of Physics Teachers, and Bootstrap, with some funding from the National Science Foundation, to teach physics teachers to integrate computer science instruction into their existing physics course. Our professional development premise is simple: we take the course. My participants immerse themselves as the student for three weeks in the summer, doing labs and activities, and having the same discussions that we would facilitate with our students.,
We’ve turned the use of educational tech on its ear, by having our students create the simulation rather than just playing with it. As a result of the training our participants have changed the way they approach tech integration in their classroom.
I am in no way saying we don’t need grading programs and student information systems. We do. But do SMART boards, computerized assessment programs, video platforms and the like improve student achievement? Are these programs designed to manage students, or to educate them? Do these flashy items prepare our students to go out into the workforce and be competitive?
I imagine the job interview going something like this:
Employer: “What technological skills would you bring to our company?”
Student-turned-Future Employee: “I learned to click through programs and scroll to the next question.”
I asked some of my colleagues about their use of technology in the classroom, and the responses were much of what I expected. Those who feel confident doing so have integrated the use of Excel for data analysis, coding platforms like Scratch and Spheros, video editing programs, and communication platforms. I envision students doing this and more in each and every one of their classes, with support from schools and districts by way of teacher training, hardware, software and infrastructure. Create a space where the people in the classroom are the ones who are meant to educate our students, not the programs. The problem is, we’ve listened to the Ginsu knife salespeople for too long.
The flash may be PR-worthy, a picture to place on the full-color brochure touting our achievements to the community. The deeper tech integration, though? The type in which our students are learning true skills? That kind creates a word-of-mouth buzz when our graduates go off into the world and are able to meet the demands of future employers. I know which one I prefer.
What does tech integration mean to you?