This is my soap box. I started climbing it yesterday as I was reading articles and posts about technology in the classroom. I hesitated as I neared the top.
I hope that readers will forgive me if I step on the soap box every once in awhile to question trends I see in educational discussions. I hope you will keep the discussion going and correct me if I am in error.
STOP Teaching Technology To Students
Charlie Roy, in a guest post for Dangerously Irrelevant, clearly stated reasons why teachers should focus on pedagogy, not tech. This is my own proverbial litmus test:
If, after the first month of school, I spend more than 10 minutes teaching a program or tool, I’m doing something wrong. Take, for example, movie-making:
Month 1: Spend 90 minutes teaching students to make movies and make quality productions.
Month 2: Students videotape themselves to practice speaking and evaluate improvement for a Living Museum project.
Month 3: Students video a book talk to demonstrate knowledge of reading skills.
Month 4: Students demonstrate scientific process through video
Month 5: Students use video to communicate their learning to parents.
Notice how the activities for months 2-6 comprise specific teaching points. Students should speak clearly (eye contact, volume, posture, etc.), analyze and self-evaluate speaking skills, demonstrate reading comprehension, demonstrate use of the scientific process, and communicate learning to parents.
If, after the first month of school, students are asking me questions about tech tools rather than content, I am doing something wrong. Students can Google search almost any tech question. My tech-savvy colleagues have created video tutorials to remind students of Google site basics. Feel free to use those videos with your students. Students need to know how and where to research to find answers to general technical problems.
STOP Teaching Technology To Teachers…Unless they ask
We learn to use what we need to use.
I spent a whole semester learning to use SPSS for statistical research. I’m using six commands to complete my dissertation. After a semester’s-worth of work, I remember six commands. Teachers, in general, are practical people. If they see a direct link between a tech-based activity and increased student learning, they’ll want to find out more.
Suggestion 1: Rethink PD
We tell teachers It’s not about the technology – it’s about the learning, but we model the opposite. We plan professional development sessions around “How to use…” Instead, consider the following:
- Spend some time with teachers and teaching teams. Find out what they’re doing. Learn what they want their students to learn. Then, prepare PD by playing with some tools that you believe will enhance what teachers are already doing.
- Spend the first 30 minutes of PD showing (not telling) teachers ideas that enhance the learning currently going on in the classroom. Anticipatory sets apply to teacher learning too.
- Offer breakout sessions where teachers learn one of the tools demonstrated. We preach differentiation. Model it. Let tech-savvy teachers run the breakouts. Better yet, let students run sessions.
Suggestion 2: Employ an “Each one Teach one” philosophy.
My students have been making iMovies for three years. I made my first iMovie six months ago. Here’s how my students learned:
- My teaching partner taught his class.
- We scheduled an hour for his students to teach my students (60 min of tech).
- I scheduled an hour for my students to teach another class of students (60 min of communication).
We have used this method to teach movie-making, podcasts, and Google ePortfolio sites. Only 60 minutes are spent “learning” the technology.
The other 60 minutes are about communication. We have one rule for students teaching students: Student “teachers” are not allowed to touch student “learner”s’ computers. The “teachers” can use any number of methods to communicate procedures. They can use words. They can set a computer beside the learner’s computer and model the actions. They can point learners to video tutorials. They can write lists of steps.
The “Each one Teach one” process helps allay the fears of teachers who are insecure about their own tech abilities. This doesn’t, however, give them permission to stop teaching. Instead of teaching tech, these teachers should be responsible for helping students analyze the quality of the layout, the presentation, and the content. They should be circulating and saying things like,
- I like how you…,
- That looks like it would be helpful for [so-and-so]… Can you show him/her?,
- I need to see [x]…Can you figure out how to do that?,
- I don’t understand what you mean by…,
- Why did you choose…?
- Give teachers permission to not know all the technology tools.
- Help teachers empower student discovery of cool tech things.
- Encourage teachers to focus on holding students accountable for their choices of tools, their uses of tools, and the quality of work produced.