My Take on Tech

In My Classroom

An overview of the technology I use with my students: what, how, and why.

Notes & Thoughts

The primary revolution that "web 2.0" technology brings to the classroom is the introduction of a legitimate audience. This radically changes the way students approach writing, changing it from a "writing assignment" to a "communication assignment" (in the words of David Warlick).

When considering which tools to bring into the classroom, we must remember that each tool has its own purpose(s). We must first learn how the tool works, then consider the implications, applications, and relevance of the tool to each teacher's classroom. Can this tool help improve learning, thinking, understanding, writing for the students? Are there other tools that can do the same thing or better (whether they be "new tech" or "old tech")? Is the time it will take the teacher and students to learn this tool worth the benefit the tool will bring? (This is a tool-by-tool, teacher-by-teacher decision and can never be mass-prescribed).

While it is fun to "play" with new tools as toys (the "flash effect"), at some point--once students have been allowed to enjoy the tool and have gained mastery of its core uses--we must move from presentation to content. In other words, no matter how cool-looking, the work must still be of substance in order for the tool to be useful.

Process is process. By this I mean, regardless of the tool or the medium, all work of value involves process. We should build in ways for students to benefit from process, from "writing/working to learn." How we do this will depend on the workings of the particular tool in question (and the ability to make this decision will depend on the teacher's competence with the tool). Of course, even the teacher's work with the tool falls under this principle, so approach the incorporation of new technology as a process as well.

I still believe in the original process for learning technology that I outlined in 2001: accessing, sharing, publishing. Students must learn how to use tools to access information and resources. This is a first step (you learn about blogs, learn to find and read them, learn to evaluate them, etc. before you start writing effective blog entries ... but see my note about process above and below). Sharing information is mainly about "web 2.0" technologies--collaborating through blogs, chats, IMs, wikis, etc. In this stage, process is the focus. Publishing involves creating a "coherent piece" for a public audience and involves a level of care, planning, and attention to detail that is not always present in the sharing stage. Of course, all of this is a process, and is recursive. Nevertheless, that is the hierarchy as I understand it.

Teachers must first know what options are available before they can think about how to (potentially) implement these options. And no teacher should be implementing a new technology simply because it's new, someone else said it was great, or some administrator/lead teacher is suggesting/demanding it. However, teacher do need to know and understand what's out there and what advantages the tools bring. Once they have this awareness, then the tool can potentially fill a need--and thus become truly useful. In other words...
  • It should go like this: I have a need to do X or to do X better than I am now. There's this tool that I know about that might help with this. I'll implement it and see if it actually helps.
  • It should not go like this: There's this tool that does all these things. Let me see if I can find some way to use this tool in my classroom.
  • It might go like this: There's this tool that does all these things. This one aspect of this tool might really help me to do X.