An Essential Question for EdTech


Integration by me: I realized this painting was ‘done’ when I had integrated colours from the daffodil’s cup into the petals.

Recently I wrote a post on digital literacy within the wider context of literacy and, in writing, touched on what I realize is central to my own teaching:

an essential question for educators today is how do we integrate literacies in our students? and in ourselves?

It is not enough – it really, really isn’t – to advocate for technology in the classroom because it looks good and because others say it is important. A reflective school leader – administrator, teacher, support staff, consultant – will start digging deeper for essential questions around student learning in relation to the use of technology, as well as apply those questions to their own learning.

I use technology in my teaching because literacy is the central focus for me at all times. “Literacy is about being able to make sense of the world we live in” (Dennis Harter, in comment to my post) and my deepest desire as a teacher is that I help students to begin to achieve this, that I give them the tools with which they can make sense of their/our world.

I use a mashup of communication tools in my teaching, from word processing, to podcasting, to text readers, to visual editors, to blogging, to wikis, to debate, to improv, to (perhaps the most important) simple conversation. I do this because each of these tools can help different students make sense of the vast amount of information that is available to them in different ways. This is essential because each of my students need the opportunity to discover the tools that work best for them and I recognize that these are not necessarily the tools that work best for me.

If I did not use technology in my teaching I would be going against all that I stand for as a teacher.

That being said, if I return to my essential question from above, I need to stress that using tech to improve literacy is only part of the picture, part of the system. Literacy is a complex system made up of many and diverse components.

I am moving more toward thinking about how my job is really to assist students in integrating their literate selves. In doing so, I need to recognize and honour the role(s) played by different technologies in their learning and in my own. That is essential for me.

(this post was inspired by this one)

“Put technology where it can be best used… In the classroom!”

[cross ranted as a comment at Stephen Ransom’s EdTechTrek] [and slightly elaborated]

I am starting to think that because many teachers and administrators
still do not know exactly what we can do with technology there is a
reluctance to put it in the classroom.

Example – today the Internet had, for some reason, stopped working
in the west wing of our school. I was at the computer lab with one
other teacher. She packed her kids up and went back because she only
books the computer lab for the last period of the day so that her kids
can ‘play on the internet’.

For her, technology has nothing to do with learning, it is a form of
entertainment. I stayed with my kids and used the time to work on our
Science vocabulary while teaching them how to hyperlink in
presentations. They were linking their vocabulary words to comments and images made by their peers, creating a collaborative learning network around the new terminology they are learning in Science. (Not bad for a wing it activity, eh ;)

For some reason, this teacher has not caught on yet that technology
can be much more than a way to waste time. I can understand the frustration of the new teachers that Stephen mentions in his post, but
until the more experienced teachers and administrators at schools begin
to use technology as a learning tool, really use it, and demand that
good forms of it be available in the schools, it isn’t going to happen.

I can also understand the frustration of the more experienced teachers who are
expected to use technology but who aren’t really given the time to grow
less afraid of it and to experiment with what can be done. There is a huge divide between our students who live and breathe with technology as part of their daily lives and the teachers who don’t. Huge. and while
there are still administrators who don’t use technology in their daily lives and who don’t champion for its appropriate use and availability in the school, let alone the classroom…well…that divide can only be expected to widen.

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