Teaching with Technology?

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about the so-called concept of teaching with technology and its overall impact on learning. I was recently at a steering committee meeting for the Apple Digital Campus project and the topic of teaching with technology came up … the overwhelming feeling in the room was, “technology has failed in the classroom …” and “it hasn’t made any difference.” I usually don’t sit these types of discussions out, but being one of the youngest and least experienced educators in the room I decided it was better to just listen. After a bit, I sort of felt like I was listening to a group of grumpy old men … everything they discussed had such a negative connotation to it. None of them (and there were about 30 of us from both higher ed and industry) really had anything positive to say about it all. I was shocked.

This room was filled with pioneers in the utilization of technology in the classroom and all of them were just nailing it. I took it in stride and decided to really think about WHY these people felt this way. What I came away with was that they might be very right and at the same time, very wrong.

Take for example the Internet … probably the one thing that every teacher would really like to integrate into their classrooms appropriately … I know I do. I am very lucky to teach at a place where literally every student has a desktop or laptop in front of him or her. This gives me an amazing opportunity to engage them via technology. But when I teach I very rarely let the students USE those machines to do any sort of Internet related work … I usually walk into class and say, “log out and close the laptops.” When I reflect on that, I can begin to see the perspectives of my colleagues. Maybe it is the technology? Maybe it really isn’t any good for the classroom … or maybe I am forcing my “old school” perspective on the way I think the classroom should be managed.

Then I take another step back and begin to see what is actually going on and I realize that I, for one, have been way too controlling with the way the students want to use it all. It seems to me that this is the most exciting time to be in a classroom that is technology-enabled. There are so many things hitting the mainstream that kids are using outside of class that it just has me very eager to try and let them show me how to make it work within the educational framework.

So the Internet sucks as a teaching tool when you just let them go crazy … but, if you can pull them in and let them all have blog spaces, open discussion areas, give them your IM screen name, and really let their everyday life drive the experience, I believe you’ll end up with a solid experience. The technology isn’t the end all be all … we know that, but it still seems important to say. I am beginning to see the Internet as a very powerful conduit to conduct my eBusiness (educational business) with. The whole idea of teaching with technology is more than Keynote, it’s letting the students teach us a thing or two. These kids are now built from the ground up in a digital framework … they know how to use this stuff.

So what’s the point of this post? Well, I spend all of my days working hard to innovate in the area of teaching with technology, but when I get to the classroom, I seem to freeze up, return to my “death by Keynote” mode of teaching and restrict access. I am now going to do the opposite — its their turn to flip on the technology, tune me out, and start learning. Can it happen? Sure. It does everyday, we just don’t see it as learning, we see as living … pervasive learning doesn’t mean wireless access, it means giving students opportunities to learn ALL the time — no walls, no wires, no lectures, just them living in a digital world and exploring, researching, and reporting on what works and what doesn’t. That’s it … not much of a point after all–>

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