Technology to enrich and engage

phone-classA recurring theme in Dan Meyer’s blog is capturing the educational opportunities that technology brings to our classrooms.  There is a subset of American teachers who are technology reactionaries.  They point out that the classrooms of their youth functioned without computers, iPods, LCD projectors, and PowerPoint presentations.  Back then, someone turned the knob to advance the filmstrip when they heard a “beep” and we put men on the moon.  So there you go.

Of course, we are pushing our students much farther today.  Not that long ago, it was revolutionary to require all students to take Algebra.  But we have left the “Algebra for All” initiative in the dust and we require all high school graduates to successfully complete four high-school math courses, and Algebra is the lowest eligible class.

But beyond that, technology gives us opportunities to teach students and to engage them.  Young people are growing up in a different environment today.  They are trained to have short attention spans, and they are trained to be isolated.  Sure, we have to work against those natures, but technology lets us meet students where they are as we help then grow and develop.

Jesse Padilla at AIMS recently posted an essay titled Is the Classroom Prepared for Today’s iPad Generation?  Unfortunately, the essay is summed up in the title.  Padilla does not suggest any resources or learning strategies.  He just says he wonders if his daughter’s kindergarten class will look different than his did.

As educators and education leaders, we need to be exploring how we can use tools to help our students meet their goals.  My campus has asked all teachers to reach out of their comfort zones this next year and bring a new technology to their classroom.  For some teachers, online video may be new, for others it may be edmodo or texts via remind101.  For me, I think it will include iPod apps such as MyScript Calculator and Number Line in addition to efforts to have a flipped classroom and iPod lessons.

But what about smart phones?  Consider this conversation from Reddit:

Q: If someone from the 1950s suddenly appeared today, what would be the most difficult thing to explain to them about life today?

A: I possess a device, in my pocket, that is capable of accessing the entirety of information known to man. I use it to look at pictures of cats and get in arguments with strangers.

In the classroom, I would suggest that our students carry a device that is not only capable of accessing the sum of human knowledge, but can create art, video, interactive presentations, can manipulate electronics and virtual worlds, can be used to interact with other or turn in assignments.  And as teachers, we either pretend it doesn’t exist, or we ban it because students will “cheat” or get distracted.

Of course students are not naturally inclined to use this technology wisely and efficiently.  As teachers it’s our job to teach them how to do that.  What is one way you can embrace technology this year to make your students more successful?

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