• by Hector Bojorquez and Juanita C. García, Ph.D. • IDRA Newsletter • June – July 2013 •
So you say you want to take the next step in using technology in education? You’ve done Webquests, you’ve done Jeopardy PowerPoints, you’ve joined countless online groups, you may have even joined ePals and collaborated with teachers in far-away lands – like Ohio.
You’ve done it all… Maybe.
We are at a crucial point in the integration of technology education. Technology integration in the classroom has gone beyond Webquest, PowerPoint or even digital film making. It is a cliché to say that in our smartphones and tablets we have at least 10 times the computing power that took humans to the moon. We are more connected to each other than any humans in history. Yet, we can’t get all kids to graduate from high school and enter college. We have at our disposal tools that can transform how we learn, but as educators, many have yet to use technology effectively. We must embrace the new mobile and portable technological world completely or we risk losing out on incredible opportunities. But what does this mean, and what steps should we take?
We will not tell you what classes to take, what staff development you need, what websites you need to visit, etc. Why? Because we must take some time to reflect on where we’ve been and what we already do.
Reflect on Our Current Use
As educators we must reflect on the following questions: “Are my students using technology mostly for PowerPoint presentations and online research? Am I mostly using technology in the classroom primarily to present concepts?”
If the answer is yes to either of these questions, perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate the role technology plays in your classroom. The most basic problem that we have with technology in the classroom is that a very large number of teachers are using computers as a means of giving high-tech lectures or accomplishing traditional tasks (receiving assignments online, communicating with parents via email, etc.). We are simply not using technologies in engaging ways that build learning.
When you assign your next research project that culminates in high-tech presentations, be they PowerPoints, movies or blogs, ask yourself: “Did the technology use really enhance the learning or was the result just a more sleek presentation?”
The irony is that we are at a point in time where we should know better. Why? Because we don’t use technology in stale ways ourselves. We have become very sophisticated users of technology. Yet we often don’t carry that into our classrooms.
Reflect on Your Personal Computer Use
A little over 10 years ago, there was a huge rush to train all teachers to adopt technology use in the classroom. Teachers across the country were trained on everything from basic computer use (using a mouse, computer folders, printing, using the MicroSoft Office Suite, email, web surfing, etc.) to creating the most rudimentary presentations with the tools at hand. This was a big step. A generation of teachers who had never thought of using a computer were suddenly given the task to learn and produce.
That level of training is no longer an issue. While there are people who still have a hard time navigating a computer’s folder system, it is nearly impossible to function in the modern world without knowing even the most basic of technology tools.
The tools also have changed, and people have adopted them without the need for week-long training sessions on how to point and click. Smartphones and tablets are more powerful than the computers we were first trained on and are easier to use. Look around. Everyone is using these devices. What is amazing is that we now carry in our pockets and briefcases the most incredible computers. Smartphones enable us to collect data (pictures, sound, video, voice-to-text notes), immediately communicate in at least three ways (voice, text, video) as well as explore an ever-growing body of apps that do everything from movie creation, GPS navigation, drawing, scanning documents, finding constellations, and on and on and on.
Yet, as educators we go in the classroom, turn on the PowerPoint, go through our lecture, talk for an entire class period, and ask students to create digital versions (PowerPoints again) of very traditional assignments. And at the end of the week, we text, instant message, Facebook and Facetime our colleagues and friends about this generation’s inability to grasp concepts. Our students go home and text, instant message, Facebook and Facetime their friends about how boring the week was in Mr. B’s classroom.
What is wrong with this picture? We, students and teachers, use these incredible tools every day, everywhere, almost all the time except where we could benefit the most – the classroom.
It is time that we reflect on technology use in the classroom by examining how we use it ourselves. We suggest that, as a first step to transforming our practices, we re-evaluate how we are using technology in the classroom in light of how we use technology in daily life. Technology no longer belongs to an exclusive club in the same ways that it did in the past. While digital gaps exist between the economically disadvantaged and the middle class, technology is no longer esoteric. Almost everyone uses computers now – be it in the form or smartphones or tablets. And we all are experiencing transformation in how we do things in the world because of these tools.
We suggest the following, as a start: Keep a journal of how you are using technology every day. Don’t exclude any kind of technology – from GPS in your car, that special app you use to keep track of exercise, the Facetime you used to talk to your niece, to that app you use to record voice memos. Do this for a few days. Then put the journal aside for a few days.
Now ask yourself, “What exactly was I doing?” If you are like the average mobile device user, you will find the following sorts of activities and verbs: communicating, researching, logging to accomplish a task (budgets, lose weight, exercise), and recording moments to share with friends and family (pictures, video).
And now think about how you would have done things without these tools. You will probably make this discovery: you did it with pen and paper, the phone, the library or not at all.
Now ask yourself, which world does your classroom most resemble: the world where you did everything either with paper or not at all or the modern world?
The point of this exercise is simple. The answer to using technology effectively in the classroom already lies within you. You don’t need to wait for another training or staff development session. All you need to do is let your students learn in the ways that you and they already move within the world. Have them record with their phones, communicate with their tablets, research on the spot, log experiments on the fly. The possibilities are only limited by your willingness to let students use technology in the ways that everyone already does.
We are not saying that you do not need to think about new things to learn; there will always be new things to learn. We are simply saying: look within your own world for the knowledge you already possess instead of waiting to be taught.
Hector Bojorquez and Juanita C. García, Ph.D., are IDRA education associates. Comments and questions may be directed to them via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[©2013, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the June – July 2013 IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]