After a five-year hiatus during which I lead teachers in my district, I am returning to the classroom. When I left my middle-school classroom five years ago, the only access to computers that I had was three labs of 23 computers. In a building with 800 students and 50 classroom teachers, it was nearly impossible to be able to reserve a lab for a day much less reserve a lab for long enough to complete an actual in-depth project on the computer.
Today, each middle school has been outfitted with a computer lab in each house or among each team of teachers: a lab for every 5 or 6 teachers and 120 students. Additionally, my classroom is the lab classroom for the team I will be on. So, if no one wants or needs the computers, they are in my classroom every day, all day long. My access to computers has clearly, exponentially increased from just five years ago, and but so, then, has my responsibility to ensure that these are an integral part of my instruction.
Let’s skip the “dog and pony show”
A greater responsibility that I have than ensuring that my students use the technology availed us is that we use it purposefully, intentionally, and to learn deeply. This is a complex undertaking. I want to make the appropriate use of technology an integral and authentic part of my classroom instruction and my student’s productivity and learning. I want to ensure that the use of technology in my classroom is not a “dog and pony show,” but rather a real, deep, purposeful learning experience that uses the tools of the 21st century to accomplish them.
For example, when I left the classroom a huge app that everyone was using was Glogster: https://www.glogster.com/#caffe. Actually an exciting tool with great potential for the demonstration of deep learning. Five years ago, all the “techy” teachers were swarming to have their students make Glogster posters, but when I reviewed the posters that students had made on the Glogster, I could see no depth of understanding. The work was often pictures that were copied and pasted from the Internet (without attribution) and the text was generally regurgitation of topic information either from the class text or copied from an online source (without attribution). The product demanded no higher order thinking, no ability to use the Glogster as a final synthesis and creative representation of the student’s new understanding.
In my classroom, I want the use of technology to be secondary to or assist in deep, critical and creative thinking either as an individual or with a collaborative group. And so…to begin the process of learning how exactly to make that a reality…