She must be excited about the latest tech integration program

Ginsu Knives of Tech

Melissa Girmscheid Uncategorized

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It slices!

It dices!

It can cut through a tin can!

It grades!

It adapts!

It can predict student growth!

She must be excited about the latest tech integration program

She must be excited about the latest tech integration program

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.

Immersive, collaborative learning so we can teach our students using the same research-based pedagogy.

Immersive, collaborative learning so we can teach our students using the same research-based pedagogy.

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.

One of my favorite activities with my students asks them to take the input from the sensors of a self-driving car and program it to brake so it obeys traffic laws.

One of my favorite activities with my students asks them to take the input from the sensors of a self-driving car and program it to brake so it obeys traffic laws.

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.”

Employer: …

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.

This is what investing in teachers looks like.

This is what investing in teachers looks like.

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?

 

Melissa is a passionate advocate for physics education. She is currently in her twelfth year of teaching high school students about the world around them through the study of physics and carries this passion to her secondary job developing and leading Computational Modeling in Physics First with Bootstrap workshops. Melissa is a Master Teacher Policy Fellow with the American Institute of Physics and American Association of Physics Teachers, and in 2019 worked with a team of Arizona physics superstars to successfully lobby for ongoing education funding for STEM and CTE teachers. Her goal is to ensure every student in Arizona has access to a high quality physics education. She continues to advocate for students as an Ambassador with the American Physical Society’s STEP UP program and a coach in the Arizona Educational Foundation’s teachSTEM program. Melissa achieved National Board certification is 2017 and now serves candidates as a Candidate Support Provider. She believes in the power of Modeling Instruction, student-centered learning, and the Five Core Propositions.

Comments 1

  1. James King

    Ooo! I love this post. I am seeing more and more people talking about the application of technology.

    I worry (and posted about) that many educators use new tech because it makes their day easier, but not necessarily to teach better. We have students use digital tools to help us grade quicker, but did we teach them practical ways for THEM to use technology? Are we just building digital barriers for the students, or are we teaching them for their own betterment?

    What a great post! Keep up the work!

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