Build (and play with) a Technology Toolkit

A current buzzword in education is technology. How do schools get it? How do schools afford it? Why do schools need it? Most importantly, how exactly do educators use the technology at their disposal to help students succeed both inside and outside of the classroom? As surprising as it may sound, educators can figure out how to use the technology that they have by playing with it.

Before teachers can recommend programs and apps, before they can confidently ascertain which technological gadget would have great classroom implications, they have to spend some time exploring the tech themselves. Think about it, would we want a surgeon teaching medical students how to operate on someone with a robotic arm if they’ve never used the technology themselves? Of course not, that’s ludicrous. So, why do we expect teachers to miraculously be able to meld these new devices and apps into the classroom? Making another valid point are Mishra and Koehler (2009), “The idea of creative repurposing is important because most technologies that teachers use typically have not been designed for educational purposes.”  Because technology is rarely designed with education in mind, teachers must bridge that extra gap in functionality by becoming curriculum designers. In order to design an effective curriculum that functions through the use of technology, not because of it, teachers must put an immense amount of time into their thought process and planning practices.

Every educator has spent countless hours improving their curriculum maps and aligning those maps to state and/or national standards but how does technology fit into the scheme of things? As soon as a new piece of technology is added to the classroom the way the concept is taught, the strategies used, the focal point of the lesson all shift. “For example, teachers who change the technology they use naturally make changes to their pedagogical approach and the content they cover to create a new “curriculum” that is also highly effective” (Mishra & Koehler, 2009). The goal is to make sure that shift is an improvement and not just another hoop for students to jump through on their way to graduation and “the real world.” One way that educators may start to contemplate this idea is through the study of TPACK. Another way that you can start to effectively incorporate technology into your students’ lives is simply by playing with it.

The first task I gave myself when I wanted to start having students turn in work online was to learn everything I could about Google Drive and the whole Google realm of apps. I dabbled in Google+, made a circle of friends and started an online chat, messed with several of the apps that were free and downloadable. When I introduced it to my students four months later, I gave them my two cents and then asked them to explore the possibilities of the site. At the end of the first class, we made a list together (on a collaborative group document mind you) of class rules when working in Google Drive as well as questions we still had collectively. It was a much more productive and engaging way to approach the tools we would be using throughout the year, and many students returned to class the next day eager to let me know that they had solved one of our collective problems or found a new use for the program. “Teachers need to develop a willingness to play with technologies and an openness to building new experiences for students so that fun, cool tools can be educational” (Mishra & Koehler, 2009). It may seem a little discombobulating to get lost in Powtoon for an hour or build a few levels of your own videogame in Pixelpress and pass it off as future planning for your classroom, but as you spend more time thinking about the classroom implications and the cross curricular possibilities it will not seem as peculiar.  The truth of the matter is that the only way that technology will ever be useful in our classrooms is if we mold it in a way that showcases and aides in the learning process.

 References

Jenkins, H., Purushotma, R., Clinton, K., Weigel, M., & Robison, A. J. (2006). Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century. The MacArthur Foundation, 5-7.  *Didn’t reference in-text but was a good read!

Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. (2009). Too Cool for School? No Way!: Using the TPACK Framework: You Can Have Your Hot Tools and Teach with Them, Too. Learning & Leading with Technology, 14-18.