Technology in and out of the classroom
First, how do we define technology? According to Alan Kay, noted American computer scientist, technology is basically anything that wasn’t around when you were born. There is often a reaction to using new technology in the classroom. No one wants to put a lot of time and energy into the newest, latest thing out there only to find out that it isn’t cool and students won’t use it.
Marc Prensky, in Teaching Digital Natives,1 suggested something a little different: why not ask the students? We can start by letting the students know what the end goal is. In a social studies course, for example, we can look at the GLE’s and CLE’s of a particular period. Take for example:
Standards SS3 1.9, 1.102
Z. Missouri history as it relates to major developments of United States History
* Analyze Missouri History as it relates to major developments of US History including
- Exploration and settlement
- Mid 1800s (conflict and war)
So, we tell the students that this is what we have to cover in class. They have three classes to cover exploration and settlement of Missouri. We can spend some time with the students discussing what good research techniques are, what it means to verify sources, how to conduct good historical analysis, and how to think historically. The next step is to ask the students what technology tools they are aware of that they could use to meet the CLE. Often enough, the students will have some good suggestions. There are lots of good sites out there that teachers can use to learn about new technology.
A good podcast for how to use cell phones in the classroom: Cell Phones as Learning Tools-K-12 Online Conference. In this podcast, Liz Kolb presents a multitude of ways to use cell phones in the classroom. She also shows ways to help students who don’t have a cell phone. Kolb also has a website with a lot of good suggestions –From Toy to Tool: Cell Phones in Learning. Her site is just one example. I am sure that UMSL faculty have a lot of good ideas about using technology to help guide students through the learning process.
The main idea is to let the students be the leaders, when possible. The teacher can provide a couple of possibilities to start the brain storming process, but it will ultimately be the students who decide which technology to use and which direction to go in. This lessens the burden on teachers having to be the expert on all the technology. It allows the students greater autonomy. Students are now a part of the process and not passive recipients of new information. Teachers can help guide students away from potential dangers (such as overly time-consuming processes). It is the teachers’ job to steer the student while allowing them to be in control of their content and technology.
The second part is that the use of the cell phone or technology doesn’t need to be the class activity. Class time should be used to make decision and discuss what happens out of the classroom. Every student should be a part of the decisions and discussions. By doing this, students can be more involved in their own learning process. They should be aware of what they are learning and how they are learning it. Through questioning, teachers can ask students to explain the process of what they are learning and to discuss the details of the information they are exploring. Outside of class is the time to do the research; in class time is the time to get the students to think more deeply about what they are researching, how they are researching it, and what they are discovering. For more on this, see Chapter 5 of Prensky’s Teaching Digital Natives.3
Teachers still need to be aware, as much as possible, of what is out there, keeping in mind that the students probably know 5 more sites to use that are faster and better than what you had planned. I recently showed my son a site that I had never used and never heard of. He responded by saying that it was all right, but he preferred a different site, which he showed me. Indeed, it was better than the one I wanted to use. If I hadn’t asked him, he probably never would have shared that site with me, but when I presented him with one option, he had at least two more, better options. Students are smart. Maybe it would be a good idea to ask them what tools they would use.
This blog is intended to be a place where teachers and students can share stories about how to use technology in and out of the classroom. All subject teachers are invited to share their stories and experiences. Hopefully, we can inspire each other to be better guides for our students. Not every student learns the same way. Not every student has to follow the same path to get to the same place. Not every classroom has to look the same.
- Prensky, M. (2010). Teaching digital natives: partnering for real learning. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Corwin. [↩]
- http://dese.mo.gov/divimprove/curriculum/GLE/documents/ss_cle_0907.pdf [↩]
- Prensky 2010, ibid [↩]
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