One of the downsides of the push for technology integration in our classrooms is that many teachers feel pressured to use the technology for everything. And, in my opinion, they feel even more pressure when they teach at a school in a 1:1 environment. After all, we’ve spent hundreds of dollars per student, totally hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars overall. We must use this stuff.
Yesterday I observed a teacher at our school in an unannounced observation for the TEAM model. It was an English class. So, naturally, as a former English teacher I went in with perhaps an extra critical eye. You know, the same way other teachers go into presentations at conferences. Or former pastors sit through the sermons of others.
There is always this nagging statement in the back of your head that says, “I would have done that differently.”
Well, I can tell you, there is not one thing I would have done differently in this class. In fact, there are some things I wouldn’t even have thought to have done at all! But what impressed me most happened about 3/4 of the way through the class.
His students were studying Fahrenheit 451. When the class started, he immediately turned on the Apple TV connected to the white board at the front of the class, called on the student leading one of the three groups they had worked in previously, and had them stream a short video the team had created. Each of the three teams were given a single passage from the book and were tasked with creating a video in which they recreated, with their own interpretations, the scene from the book.
Each video was unique, even though they had used the same passage. And each was fantastic. You could tell they had put time and effort and…and…thought…into creating this short 2 or 3 minute clip. Each had a bit of humor. Each had drama. One had a voice over narrator. Another had a Blair Witch moment in the dark.
I was impressed.
This teacher had his students open their email app and begin to answer the first prompt of the day. Throughout the class they would come back to this email and answer more and more questions after some brief classroom discussions. Finally, at the end of class, the students were told to hit send so he would receive them for grading.
One of the activities they worked on was a list of 30 Foreign Words and Phrases. Most of the words the students had at least heard before. In their same video groups, they sat down to look up these words and phrases, type up the language of origin and a brief definition in their own words. Each person in the group was given a few words, so no one was using the same word.
The idea was that at the end of the time allotted for research and typing, the students would share their definitions with the rest of the group in order for everyone to have the entire list. And, in a style typical to something I would do as a student/teacher, they set about figuring out how to copy their work and send it to others in the group. After all, copy and paste and email are all possible on an iPad, right?
Immediately the teacher stopped them for a teachable moment. He said, “Class, I know this technology allows you to copy and paste. I’m really happy we have this technology to use. But copy and paste won’t help you learn anything. I want each of you to read your definitions to the rest of your group while they type it in on their own. You will learn so much more by interacting, talking and listening, and typing, than you will with copy and paste.”
That was the moment. That moment clarified something for me that I had wondered after two years as a technology coach and this 1/2 year as an administrator.
There IS a balance in technology integration in the classroom. And that balance is brought on by skilled instructors who understand that there are certain activities in which the technology can help students be creative and engaged, and certain activities in which learning is actually diminished.