When I first started teaching I wanted to use technology for everything I taught. It was really obnoxious and it wore my students out. After a few years of reflection, I realized that I should only use technology in my classroom when it is the better option. In addition I started providing analog options to most of my assignments.
This week I read Gavriel Salomon’s article It’s Not Just The Tool But The Educational Rationale That Counts. I agree with the title but I felt like the article was a bit too harsh on technology. I have found my self falling into the trap of “What is possible becomes desirable!” (Salomon). I agree that is a dangerous place to be but “we have always done it this way” is a dangerous place to be as well.
In my own classroom I have seen technology detract and I have seen it do things not otherwise possible.
I have taught in a setting where every student has a device in my classroom for eight of my nine years of teaching. One thing about technology I have enjoyed is allowing my students to have instant access to information. This has allowed students to check what I am teaching them and has made me a better teacher and they have become more independent learners.
A few years ago, in my geography class, I made the statement that Moscow has more millionaires than any other city in the world. One my students immediately started typing on her computer and moments later she had her hand raised. When I called on her she politely disagreed with me and said that it was New York City instead of Moscow. I asked her some information about her source and as a class we looked into it further.
It turns out that I was right… but a few years out of date. Moscow used to have the most millionaire but now (as of the date of that class) NYC had the most millionaires, still according to the same site.
This became a great learning activity that turned information into knowledge and it would not have been possible with out technology.
There are plenty of other times where technology was a distraction and plenty of other times where it was an enhancement. It really is less about the tool and more about the methods that you use with the tools.