Paying Attention to both the How and the Why

So I stumbled upon this video on TeacherTube, and watched it with interest. It is in the vein of so many persuasive pieces that are done to convince others of the importance of technology (specifically the web) and its impact on children’s lives and development. Surely someone is doing a Ph.D. thesis on these “did you know” pieces and whether they make any difference.

“Paying Attention” prevails upon educators to recognize–and tap into–the digital lives of students. On the heels of the RCWP Tech Matters experience of last week, I’m wishing I’d found this video sooner. I think it illustrates where so many in education are at; we recognize the need to capitalize on new tech in order to maximize student learning. We get that.

And I think more and more teachers are adopting new tech, whether it is open sourceware, web apps like wikis or blogs, or even tools for digital storytelling. No doubt there are some roadblocks, from finecky firewalls to limited computer lab time to a lack of support for learning new tech. But these challenges would be overcome if teachers had a vision of the power new tech has to engage and prepare their students for this digital world.

How is easy, which I think is why how has been such a fun space to occupy–wikis, blogs, podcasts, voicethread, moodle, cell phones and on and on. Why is the difficult real estate to live in–envisioning, planning, and implementing strategic use of new tech in ways that are authentic, that do more than substitute digital paper for paper paper.

Do I walk the “why” as well as I’d like? No–I’m still standing at the boundary where how bumps up uncomfortably against the Sea of Why, dipping an occasional toe into those rough waters. I’m going to list the ways, off the top of my curly hair, that I can think of how new tech is being used in my classroom, in the hopes that it will prompt me to wade into the water more.
I use/have used new tech to…

  • share video and audio content, including videos from unitedstreaming.com and audio from iTunes, that goes beyond our other classroom materials and engages students to listen and view (critically, if I’m earning my pay that day)
  • allow students to “publish” their writing using our class blog or podcast page (while still allowing for the choices of author’s chair or classroom posting as valuable ways of sharing)
  • have students work in collaborative groups to research issues of pressing interest to the world and their own lives (this past year we work a lot with researching endangered species)
  • use Kidspiration software with students to organize research and ideas from social studies
  • collaborate with students to create a wiki of our social studies curriculum
  • allow students to access computers for supervised emailing and Accelerated Reader quizzes
  • provide links to academically relevant and interesting websites using my delicious account to organize links into easily accessible categories/tags
  • capture student conversations and conferences so that both my students and I can reflect on how we are using conversation to drive learning

That’s enough for now–I hope to come back to this list, add to it, and more importantly look at the tech choices I’m making in the context of how they are driving student learning beyond being a fun “hook” for engagement (important, but not the whole game, right?)

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