How Important is Technology in Education?

I’m less concerned about teaching kids how to use technology itself. They take to it like drinking water. Even very young ones. I’m sure you’ve seen toddlers navigate an iphone with almost no instruction. I’m more interested in getting students to build behaviors that allow them to make careful decisions about the technology they use. It’s not just net safety, which I do worry about, especially with younger children. For example, I just don’t feel comfortable taking pictures of kids in my class and putting them up on any photo-sharing site like flickr . On my class website parents need a password to view the gallery. They can view everything else such as the curriculum, my weekly letter, or any other kinds of things I wish to communicate to them. What is also important to teach kids is civility when responding to articles, especially these days where many do so under some anonymous pseudonym. The vitriol can be quite distasteful. Let’s face it, technology is here to stay, but we can learn to switch it off and use it in ways to create rather than simply consume.

Second graders still need to write with pencil and paper, but more and more, I’ve noticed many starting to come to school with early keyboarding skills. I don’t mean one finger typing, I mean many are using software at home out of interest and learning how to keyboard on their own. At our school keyboarding isn’t taught until third grade, so they’re definitely getting it elsewhere.

I’ve been thinking about a closed private blog for second graders where they can write a short story, book review, or post photos they have taken. Not because I want them to learn how to blog – they will have lots of time to learn how to do this. I want them to begin using their real names to make comments on others’ work and learn how to do so respectfully and with thought. The vitriol I mentioned can turn into what is called cyber-bullying, and it’s never too early to deal with that. They also need to learn how to limit their use and reliance on technology and see it for what it is – a tool. When Egypt turned off internet reception last week, people (who had the capacity to think) used older technologies and pulled out their old dial-up modems, and communicated through ham radio frequencies.

This month’s Ed. Leadership issue is titled “Teaching Screenagers” and focuses on the use of technology (both teachers’ use and student use). Learning with technology should go beyond basic skills and help them to acquire higher-order skills. According to one of the articles, Transforming Education with Technology (one of the free ones), we “in addition to addressing the digital divide, we must also address the pedagogical divide.”

There’s another great article about moving students online. It suggests that we model that behavior for them. There’s a great quote from the article: “Students should be able to find themselves online, associating their full names with their best work for a global audience to see.” It suggests four first steps for teachers.

  1. Become googleable yourself – it suggests starting a twitter account or a blog.
  2. Model connections – where appropriate, share with your students how you learn from others online
  3. Share student work – as the teacher of younger students, we should moderate their comments – with older students they should be taught how to do so responsibly
  4. Practice and Teach “Reputation Management” – What you put out there is FOREVER. Even if you delete it, it is most likely cached somewhere.

There are plenty of good articles in here like one about five lessons administrators should keep in mind as they implement new technology initiatives.

Another one, titled Making the Most of Your Cl@ss Website was interesting to me. This is the first year I’ve had one, and its main purpose has been to communicate to parents. According to the article that’s only level 3 (there are five). Level 4 should focus on the curriculum, but also have the student participate. Level 5 helps the student direct their own learning where the teacher places carefully constructed open-ended questions. At first I started to react that I didn’t have a website at that highest level, but the article said it was rare, it would probably require students to be older than the ones I teach, and hey, this is the first year I’ve had a class website – and blog. I’m still learning. There’s even a great article titled, how PowerPoint is Killing Education which discusses how slides can be effective, but not if we bore kids with headings and bullet points. That’s just an outline, not an effective lesson.

In the end though, as a short article states: “Good teaching trumps good tools.” Besides, I have no idea what we’ll be using in ten, fifteen, or twenty years.


5 thoughts on “How Important is Technology in Education?

  1. haha! I did something right! you just confirmed it LOL I have a blog for my children to post their photo’s. I used (dare I say here) blogger because you can keep google and their spidies away from it – never to allow their flicks hit google and there fore their name. The only people who can see it is who I share the link to. Though I am still debating allowing them to learn to type. I think it is very important that they learn to print then to hand write to the point that it becomes second nature to them. Once that is done, then I will teach them how to type until that becomes second nature. Anyways great post! Using a blog to teach net-etiquette is great idea!

    • Thanks for the comment. From what I’ve read, there are a lot of important connections that are made in the brain when kids actually form their words using pencil and paper. I think delaying keyboarding until they are ready for it is a great idea. I didn’t learn how to type until I was in my 20’s because I needed to pass a typing test for a campus library job. I used the cheapest typing software at the time, Mavis Beacon. I spent half an hour a day for two weeks and ended up typing over 90 wpm on the test, well past the required 60 for the job. Although a requirement, I got the job, and never had to type a single word.

  2. I think that teaching children how to effectively use technology by incorporating it into your lesson plans is a fantastic idea. With the way the world is moving, it is imperative that they learn these skills at a young age.

    Brilliant post! 🙂

  3. Anthony, it’s an interesting way to teach kids how to properly comment on people’s work online–a far better use of the medium than some of the stuff we’ve heard.

    I don’t love the idea of kids critiquing other kids’ work without a really good framework. I do like that it’s public.

    But I’ve seen firsthand how other forms of well-intended peer evaluations can make a child feel, and honestly, working for peer approval is something with less value at this age.

    I guess it comes down to what the primary goal of the activity is. If it’s to encourage creative generation, that’s one thing. If it’s to develop critical capacity, that’s another–and I think it’s better for kids to develop this on work other than their peers. So, take a professional illustration and ask them, “What works about this for you?” Or a poem. Or what have you.

    And then get kids to do a work based on what they observed in some other model of excellence. Get them to comment on how they were influenced and what their intentions were. Get them to criticize their own efforts. Did I succeed? What did I wish I could do that I didn’t?

    At this point, their peers might have ideas for how a student can better achieve her aims. This is how professional criticism works for the artists and writers I know.

    (Though with adults, an editor might read a page and say, ‘This is what I think you intended,’ instead of having the writer or artist explain themselves first.)

    This, for example, is how my friend Paul evaluates his own work in general:

    And here’s how he evaluates a Degas painting:

    • Thanks for the feedback, ideas, and links. Paul’s blog is great. I love people who are so willing to share their creative process.

      I would agree with you, especially for very young children, that they shouldn’t critique each other’s work. I’m thinking of possibly having the kids type a short book recommendation, and then having other kids comment if they’ve read the same book and want to add anything. Of course, I’d want to keep the blog private to the class and all comments moderated by the teacher.

      That being said, apart from the goal of producing a piece of writing, another objective would be to instruct kids about the permanent nature of what they create on the web, how to keep what they produce positive (eventually leading to something constructive/reflective) as they get older.

      I’ve found a few tools out there that allow teachers to create private class blogs, but just haven’t had the time to play with them. While I like experimenting with new tech, I also like to vet it out before letting the children have a go at it. Kids need to develop good positive social skills in the real world first, but they will be in the virtual world soon enough and need to have those skills there too. I’m just not sure where to start, but I’m determined to figure it out. I also agree with you that having a clear framework first will be critical before leaping in with kids.

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