Progress is unstoppable. It is a drumbeat to which we must all march. Technology helps and good ideas spread these are the two laws of nature. If you don’t let technology help you, if you resist good ideas, you condemn yourself to dinosaurhood! Life of Pi by Yann Martel.
I recently read this quote and cannot agree more, technology will continue to advance whether we like it or not, whether we use it in our classroom or not. Whenever my family travels, the first thing my almost 3 year old and 15 month old do when we get to a hotel room is immediately pick up the phone and start talking into it. I have no idea how they know how to use a landline phone as we have never had one. They do the same thing with my mobile phone, but they have seen me talking into that. I am amazed they can make the connection to a landline phone. This is one example of how children, including my students, are comfortable with technology and eager to try new things.
Purposeful… relevant…that is what technology use in the classroom needs to be. There is an app, website or program for everything we do in the classroom; however, most of them are just repackaged paper-and-pencil memorization tasks. This is simply substitution on the SAMR model. There are always new things coming out that seem like the next amazing thing to help students, but it is up to teachers to evaluate the technology to see if it will actually work in their classroom and will it benefit their students. Will it teach the 21st century skills the students need? Teachers need to be honest and evaluate whether or not they can consistently use it in a purposeful manner. My current school is very forward thinking when it comes to technology. It is located in Shenzhen, which is called “the Silicon Valley of China.” Teachers are given the opportunity to implement technology freely in our classrooms. Also, the school partnered with a local robotics/technology company to equip our Makerspace with many of the newest tech available. However, we have a one-to-one laptop program, which in theory is great for inquiry-driven learning experiences, but they are old, slow and of the 22 I am supposed to have only 17 actually work at any given time. The issue that schools need to remember is to not always go for the next big thing but also to maintain and enhance what they have already have in place. As Robert Dillon says, “My second piece of advice is that we really get caught at times chasing shining things and we fail to focus on the things that are truly necessary for learning. We have to stay focused on engaging learners and bringing joy to the classroom.”
The tech we need to use should allow students to enhance their learning and give the skills they will need in the future. Following Bloom’s Taxonomy, many programs can easily be correlated to the different levels of thinking to merge technology with what is being done in class. Further, just as teachers are always trying to use the higher levels of Bloom’s, they should also be trying to move to the higher levels of the SAMR model. From a different perspective, I don’t actually approach Bloom’s Taxonomy as a straight line of thinking or learning. According to Making Thinking Visible by Ron Richart, Mark Church and Karin Morrison Although Bloom’s categories capture types of mental activity and thus are useful as a starting point for thinking about thinking, the idea that thinking is sequential or hierarchical is problematic. Bloom suggests that knowledge precedes comprehension, which precedes application, and so on. However, we can all find examples from our own lives where this is not the case. When I look at the taxonomy, it reminds me to make sure I am planning learning experiences that target different types of thinking. I make the same considerations when planning how to integrate technology by targeting all levels of SAMR, with an emphasis on redefinition and modification.
I think teachers who don’t integrate technology into their lessons or include it only on a surface level do so because they lack confidence in themselves and their abilities to fully blend it into their classrooms. Just like with any other subject or teaching strategy, there are people with different levels of mastery and comfort with technology. As teachers become more comfortable and open to change, what was once hard and strange will become familiar. They can model to their students how to handle new and challenging information and show them that teachers are also always learning. Furthermore, students often know more than the teacher when it comes to technology. What a great opportunity for students to use their higher level thinking to teach the teacher how they use technology in their own lives!
Teachers need to build multiple cultures in their classrooms, such as one of learning, one of creativity, and one of “I don’t know.” We always tell the students it is okay if they don’t know things, since the purpose of school is to learn. We need to show the students that sometimes we as teachers don’t know all the information, but we can model how to use technology to find out what we don’t know and how to find answers to what we don’t know. We need to build a classroom culture where students will freely “give it a go.” Our students need to become adept at learning new tools and be able to apply them to new situations.
As I am moving slowly from lurker status to a teacher of the 21st century who consumes as well as produces content on the internet, my biggest hurdle is figuring out what to post on Twitter. What do people want to see about me and my teaching? According to Education Weeks Market Brief, only 13 percent of K–12 teachers use social media in the classroom. This is a frighteningly low statistic. Using things like Twitter in the classroom is a simple way to integrate technology into a classroom. Teachers can and should be using it to reach out to their PLNs, in addition to keeping parents and students aware of what is happening in class. I remind myself not to be a dinosaur and start making small changes that slowly build into larger change in my teaching practice.