Saturday, May 9, 2009

Why we need technology

Why should your district continue to use and pursue technology?
This is the question posed by the current online Tech&Learning article by Ben Grey. Well - we have just had a flock of visitors to our school to look our use of technology. Our tech lead (who is terrific by the way) set up an hour-long student led demonstration of learning with technology. It was a resounding success - this I heard from both the students present and the teachers present (I was teaching and running the "Quiet Study" - alas).

Yet, our tech lead reported some disappointment with the presentations. He expected "flashier." I sent students to show ed.Voicethread audio and visual comment threading we had done in class, StudyWiz threaded discussions, Motivator, and blogging. I asked about NoteShare, but our lead thought that would be too passive (he's wrong there, but it was his show). Our visitors saw ComicLife posters and short books, some math programming, iMovie, Keynote, Sketchup - lively stuff.

Yes, the visitors were impressed by the flash-value of what they saw and heard. But the real value of the experience was felt by the presenters. Our quietest student, also our best student, presently brilliantly about using Chipmunk Basic in Algebra. A boy with Turret's presently seamlessly and long about how he replicated in Sketchup the courthouse from Inherit the Wind. The students were proud. That pride is a big part of learning in the middle school.

The tech lead teaches social studies. His students have finished a Keynote presentation and are now beginning a research project on the 20's. They can present their learning in any way. A great many have chosen to spend a week and a weekend making colorful posters. Yes, you read correctly - posters. Think of it this way: our students have come to view technology as a choice that can be selected in a weighted, and weighty, decision. They get technology, and therefore can elect
with confidence not to use it. That is a gift of our 1-1 program.

Last is the value to students of the "student tools" provided by technology: writing, note-taking, information retrieval and collection, data analysis, outlining, self-assessments, voice recording, audio text, video and audio files. These visitors did not get to see how important these uses of technology are to students. They are so embedded in our classrooms that they are "boring." I am sorry about this.

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