how does technology fit with learning?

Image: Puzzle by edithbruck made available through a creative commons license on flickr.

” It is our goal in developing an integrated curriculum to ensure that the way students learn with technology agrees with the way they live with technology.”

I love this goal – written by Dennis and cited by his colleague Justin.

It marks a shift away from seeing technology as an extra layer to education, as something nice to know and separate from the ‘real business’ of learning (teaching) in schools.

Justin asks these important questions:

So what technology skills do students NEED to know?

You ask 10 educators this question and they will give out 10 different answers.
Terms like Power Point,Word, Dream Weaver, Web Search often appear in them.

Should they not be replaced with with words like: Communicate, Write, Evaluate, and Think?

That last bit heard me yell a resounding YES! at my computer screen. How does technology fit into education? It is embedded. I can no longer see it as a layer, to slip on or off of my curriculum as the mood stirs me. Kids live with technology. They experience much of their world through it. If I expect my students to succeed I need to teach with this in mind.

Kids know how to use powerpoint. But do they know when? They know how to search for something on the web. But do they know how to analyze and synthesize their results? They know how to make web pages, but do they know how to create something pertinent and readable?

And when they don’t know these basic technological skills, I show them to them in about 5 minutes (or better yet, I get a peer to show it to them) so that we can get on to the bigger business of communicating, writing, evaluating, and thinking.

Kudos to Justin and Dennis for elaborating their goals and asking these pertinent questions…and thanks for sharing!

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6 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Tracy, I really enjoyed this post. I’ve been teaching middle school Tech Ed courses for 2 years now, and it has only been about 2 months since Web 2.0/participatory learning really entered into my line of sight.

    I feel as if I’ve entered into a new world, one my students are actually better prepared to navigate than I am. But that’s where my excitement really starts to surge. I will be unleashing a collaborative LMS, Blogs, Podcasts, slideshare, jing, skypecasts, embedded video, etc. on them for the first time this year …. all of which seem completely novel to me. In truth, I fully expect them to ask me what rock I’ve been hiding under that I don’t already know what all this stuff is and how it works! :)

    Again, enjoyed your post. Thanks for your efforts!

    Kevin Sandridge
    http://notesfromtheridge.edublogs.org

  2. The great thing about sharing is hearing positive thoughts and reinforcement from others! Thank you for sharing your and our ideas with others.
    Justin and I are working on putting together some curricular attempts to answer those questions that you ask. An embedded tech curriculum based on thinking and collaborating and analazying and creating and making decisions that can work alongside (and perhaps someday over) a curriculum based on knowledge content.
    It’s exciting stuff….a little daunting…but exciting nonetheless. Keep checking our blogs (Dennis and Justin) for more thoughts on it as we proceed.

  3. This is a great discussion Tracy, and, sadly, I think it needs to continue. I taught IT (grades 8-11) for a number of years. I stopped teaching most of the software bundles and instead gave students reasons to use them. If they understand the basics of most applications they will quickly learn to make things with them.

    I compare it to a shop teacher teaching students how to use tools without ever giving them a chance to make anything with them. Or in my own experience at a school in England, for three years we were taught many of the in and outs of musical notation and transcription, without ever being given an instrument to play. Seriously.

    We have had these computers for many years now. The novelty is gone. All teachers need to get on to letting students create bigger and better things with them — whether the teacher understands the machine or not.

    Topher.

  4. I hope that this conversation continues, Topher, though I don’t find it sad at all! It is conversations like these that spur change, that spur movement. The more we talk about shifting waters in education with our colleagues the more likely the waters will flow in the directions we need to go.

    Your comments got me thinking, and inspired my latest post :)

  5. Tracy,
    It is interesting how you mention PowerPoint as a “skill” that teachers feel should be taught. I have seen PowerPoint used in disastrous ways and have always felt that too much attention was paid to the software and not what it was being used for. I have been teaching computer skills to adults and college students for the last 4 years. I always create authentic projects and we learn the software that way. For example, with college students, we created a spreadsheet to calculate GPA and many other numbers, such as within major, out of major, percent completion, etc. It has graphs, conditional formatting, locked cells, macros, etc. They learned a lot about Excel and were able to use it in a meaningful way to create something that is actually useful. In everything we (teachers) teach we give students basic skills and then expect them to apply those – shouldn’t we be doing the same for technology skills? As a former elementary school teacher, I hate to see MS Office in some classrooms – it is a business software and should not be used with such young students.

  6. Actually, TeacherJay, I quoted Justin’s post. I believe that this is what you are referring to:

    Justin asks these important questions:
    So what technology skills do students NEED to know?
    You ask 10 educators this question and they will give out 10 different answers.
    Terms like Power Point,Word, Dream Weaver, Web Search often appear in them.
    Should they not be replaced with with words like: Communicate, Write, Evaluate, and Think?

    I agree wholeheartedly with your comment when you write

    In everything we (teachers) teach we give students basic skills and then expect them to apply those – shouldn’t we be doing the same for technology skills?

    In fact, that was the gyst of this post and those by Justin and Dennis I referenced in it!

    Though, I’m not sure how much of the skill we actually have to teach. With technology, our students already know a lot of the basic skills. I’d much prefer to focus on application than on the skill. I find that much too much time is spent on skill attainment, especially in regards to tech, of skills that students already have!

    It’s definitely heartening to see that there are a number of us thinking along the same lines.

    thanks for the comment :)

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