Technology is often underused in education where most often the Power Point presentation is considered to be the epitome of high-tech. For some reason, seasoned educators scoff at social media and other digital tools as effective ways of reaching out to our students. At the same time, these educators do not consider technology in ways that could help them become better collaborators and teachers. Those of us in education have been aware for some time that we are in the season of change. Not only must we deal with the economics of the times and politics, but we also must face the issue that the way that our students learn today is vastly different from the way we used to learn before. Educators are trained to be reflective practitioners and the best ones generally do spend time reflecting on their practice. Therefore, they are cognizant of their students’ strengths and weaknesses. Even the media tells us that more children are venturing online. Knowing what we know, why are educators reluctant to face the future and persist in sticking with the past?
Using John Palfrey’s book, Born Digital, as the basis for my paper, I am going to address three issues that I believe affect how technology is (or is not) implemented in education.
We can’t deny that technology costs money and there is very little money available right now. There may be many schools and school districts that are eager to implement new databases, purchase new computers, but just simply lack the funds to do so. In this section, I will discuss and suggest some cheap options for schools and individual teachers. The following are just a couple examples of resources that will be included.
- How to Use QR Codes in the Classroom is one way of implementing cheap technology.
- YouTube: Create Easy Digital Storytelling is a way for students to create digital stories without needing any expensive equipment.
- Open Yale Courses is a program that is offered through Yale University. Though this is not a resource site, per se, with worksheets and suggested activities, teachers who have gifted students will appreciate the content of the lectures which range from Astronomy to Sociology.
What usually prevents us from trying new things is because we are afraid of either change or the thing itself. Despite its prevalence, technology is a somewhat frightening entity for many individuals, probably because the rate at which it changes and renews itself is completely mind-boggling. That leaves us with two options: go off-grid or embrace. As educators, we must always choose the latter option. The following are some ways that timid educators can get their feet wet before they dive right in.
- ReadWriteWeb is a website that often reviews upcoming technology, both hardware and software (physical devices and programs/apps). Though this is a bit tech-heavy, it is worth culling the posts as some great gems can be found. For example, can’t attend any major conferences this year? Visit Lanyrd and track the ones you want. There are additional resources available on the site from previous conferences in the form of audio clips, videos, and slides. This is one of the sites highlighted by ReadWriteWeb recently.
- Tumblr has a strong education community with its own featured #Education tag. Though it’s better to be a Tumblr user and actively participate, membership is not necessary since a user can just search by tag. How effective is this? The three resources suggested in the previous section are from my Tumblr feed.
- The Horizon Report from the EduCause Conference is a great resource for librarians and educators who are interested in preparing for the future of educational technology. For those who are a bit timid and nervous about the rapid changes, this is a great way to get ahead of the game, so to speak.
I asked a friend if she ever felt that her school wanted her to use technology without giving her instruction on how to use it or even why she should use it. Her response was, “Yes, and sometimes they don’t give us proper training. We are just supposed to figure it out” (Google Chat, April 17, 2011). When I asked her how she felt, she answered, “Well… with the smartboard, there was really solid training, but with other online software, it [was] only like a one day training, and then we are suppose to figure it out after that. It makes me feel very insecure about using technology”. I found her response very informative; however, I hope to find some more documentation or anecdotal evidence about how overeager acceptance of every new piece of technology or educational software is deleterious to the effective implementation of technology in the classroom.
- Social Media Policy for School Districts
Schools usually tend to treat student use of social media with draconian and often reactive measures that are generally ineffective. Rather than punish students (and teachers) who use Facebook or YouTube in school, administrators should draft a policy that is not punitive but informative.
- Bishop Lynch High School’s social media policy is a great example of how a school can both protect the students’ and teachers’ rights to use these common technology tools without sacrificing their responsibilities. I will break down what makes this an effective policy and discuss how this can impact student learning.
Among educators, collaboration is one of those ideas that gets tossed around so much that it just becomes another word that has lost its meaning. While this is unfortunate, this does not mean that educators should not collaborate. However, collaboration is something that can be done on a much grander scale and is not really limited to the physical building.
From my experience, teachers who did not collaborate often did so because they did not have the time, not because they did not want to meet. This section will look at how technology can help teachers use their time effectively and still work with one another.
Collaboration is not limited to just the one school. Thanks to technology, such as Skype in the Classroom, educators can share ideas with one another without having to meet.
Braun, Linda W. “Playing Keep Up with Emergent Technologies.” VOYA. Aug. 2005. Web. 18 Apr. 2011. http://www.voya.com/2010/03/30tag-team-tech-archives.
Horton, Mark. “Education 2.0 â Social Networking and Education.” The Future of Work. 2 Nov. 2010. Web. 18 Apr. 2011. blog.socialcast.com/education-2-0-social-networking-and-education
Lauby, Sharlyn. “10 Must-Haves for Your Social Media Policy.” Mashable. 2 June 2009. Web. 18 Apr. 2011. mashable.com/2009/06/02/social-media-policy-musts
Palfrey, John G., and Urs Gasser. Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives. New York: Basic, 2008.
Richtel, Matt. “Growing Up Digital.” The New York Times Upfront: the Newsmagazine for Teens 31 Jan. 2011. Web. 17 Apr. 2011. teacher.scholastic.com/scholasticnews/indepth/upfront/features/index.asp?article=f013111_digital
Valenza, Joyce Kasman. “Manifesto for 21st Century School Librarians.” VOYA. Oct. 2010. Web. 18 Apr. 2011. www.voya.com/2010/09/15/tag-team-tech-october-2010
Valenza, Joyce Kasman. “You Know You’re a Twenty-First-Century Teacher-Librarian If….” VOYA. Oct. 2006. Web. 18 Apr. 2011. www.voya.com/2010/03/30/tag-team-tech-archives
Watters, Audrey. “Study Finds the Internet Makes Youth More Engaged Citizens.” ReadWriteWeb. 24 Feb. 2011. Web. 18 Apr. 2011. www.readwriteweb.com/archives/study_finds_the_internet_makes_youth_more_engaged.php