Since my colleagues and I began this blog last November, I’ve read quite a few articles on educational technology. Few have remained in my thoughts as much as the one from Te@chThought entitled “Education Technology as a Matter of Principle.”
Blogger Terry Heick reminds us that using technology to facilitate learning has always been an essential part of educational methodology. Over time, this usage inevitably evolves from lower to higher complexity and functionality. Using chalk on a blackboard progressed to writing with dry erase markers on a whiteboards and then to using virtual “pens” on SMART boards. Every classroom at my school has an LCD projector and Apple TV which any teacher can use with his or her iPad to project “whiteboard” apps like Explain Everything. As a result, the portable SMART boards purchased only a few years ago are obsolete. We do still occasionally use them though, along with semi-erasable markers, as “whiteboards on wheels.”
So the question isn’t “should teachers use technology in their teaching,” but rather “which forms should be used?” And I think a related question is: “How central to the learning process in our classroom is the use of “higher” and emerging forms of educational technology?”
The sentence which stands out for me the most is when Heick observes:
iPads are the worst technology students will ever use.
Wow. How true. And how often I am so enamored and amazed by what the iPad can do that I forget this simple fact.
When today’s elementary students are 40, they’ll remember iPads the way (many of us) remember cassette tapes. It will be funny that they used to hold large, heavy glass rectangles in their hands, and had to open up apps separately. And had to know which app did what. And had to “Google” information. And sometimes weren’t even connected to the internet because WiFi signals were unreliable.
My experience confirms this. When I was in elementary school I remember playing Oregon Trail (this version and not this revised one) on a green-screen Apple IIe. In the late 1980’s when I was in college I typed and printed my papers on an all-in-one word processor. People who are older than me remember before there were palm sized transistor radios.
It’s hard to imagine how outdated iPads will seem in 5 or 10 years. While there’s no shortage of predictions about what the future of consumer technology will hold, we can’t ever predict it accurately. When I got my first Walkman in 1985 could I possibly believe that 20 years later I’d have an iPod which held a ridiculous amount of music?
My takeaway from the inevitability of the rapid and unanticipated evolution of technology is two fold. First – Don’t get too wedded to any one particular form of hardware or software as ‘this too shall pass.” More importantly – I should teach my students how to learn about using technology rather than simply having them learn content via technology.
Let me share an example from my freshman class this Spring. Recently I had my students pair up to create “social media” pages from the perspective of a character in Genesis. I had them use the Tackk platform for this assignment. Meanwhile, my colleague who teaches the other freshman Religion classes used Blendspace as the platform for a similar assignment.
I’m planning to assign my students a similar project to create a “social media” page for a Judge, King or Prophet. Should I have them use Tackk again in order for them to develop their novice skills on that platform? Or is there more learning potential in having them use Blendspace, even if their output will be of a beginning level? Governed by the philosophy of teaching students how to learn about using technology, I think I’ll opt for the later and not former option. Sure, there will be more of a learning curve for me as well, but I think learning how to pick up a new technology and use it effectively is a 21st century skill equal to the other ones on the typical lists of these skills.
As always, I’ll let you know how Blendspace works out for my students and me.