Reimagining Education

Putting Technology to Use

It’s hard to imagine living without iPhones, Facebook, Twitter, and Skype. The technology we can fit into our pockets has changed the way we interact with our friends, co-workers, and even someone on the other side of the world. However, in many classrooms across our country, technology is either underused or nonexistent. In fact, my principal became alarmed by the fact that new teachers in our school were not using what technology we have, so she called a specific meeting to show us what’s available. During our introduction to the listening centers, the VHS tapes, and CD-ROMs sitting in our storage room, I realized how much schools and teachers could benefit from having updated technology (and relevant training) to order to incorporate technology into their lessons. It does us no good to have even outdated technology in our schools if no one knows where it is or how to use it.

My principal began our technology meeting by stating how, while she appreciates our efforts to stand up in front of our classes every day for seventy minutes and talk at our students, eventually this teaching method leads to burn out. She brought technology in as a way to put teachers in the role of a facilitator, not a director, and thus give us more energy to focus on other important things going on in our classroom. For instance, she gave an example of how she created stations in her room using a listening center in order to have time to work with a small group of struggling readers. In her days as a teacher, my principal used the oldest of VHS tapes and the most stubborn of computers to enhance her lessons. As I listened to my principal, I began to think of how the young, new teachers at our school have more experience using technology in their personal lives than in the classroom. I also thought of how if our nation wants to attract more high quality, young teachers into our schools for the long-term, then perhaps more access to technology could be a piece of the puzzle.

This is not to say that teachers aren’t already purposeful in how they use technology. In fact, I know of many teachers within our school make use of technology in interesting and relevant ways. For example, a seventh grade communication arts teacher regularly uses an LCD projector to show his lessons as Power Point presentations. This kind of multimedia presentation not only helps him to stay focused on a lesson objective, but it also helps to keep students engaged. He was able to upload a video of the Hindenburg zeppelin exploding directly into his Power Point and immediately provide the students a context for the story they were about to read. Also, I know a fifth grade teacher who created a blog for her students to use as they participated in an independent reading group about the book Holes by Louis Sachar. This teacher posted weekly prompts for the students to respond to and gave them time in class to visit the blog. What I can imagine, however, is how transformative an impact more updated technology like Smart Boards, laptops, and LCD projectors can have on students and teachers.

Given that so many of our students can text faster than they can read, and that teachers are often found carrying a Blackberry alongside their lesson plans, it makes sense to have the latest and greatest technologies within our schools. If you already incorporate blogs, Facebook, and webcams into your daily routine, it’s not very encouraging to then have to deal with VHS tapes from the ‘80s and chalkboards from the ‘70s. Perhaps one reason the technology is being underused at our schools is because it is outdated and inaccessible to today’s generation of teachers and students; then again, perhaps it is not being used because teachers aren’t sure of how to effectively incorporate it into their lesson plans and it is so expensive. Regardless of the reason for underused technology, I am confident that if our schools had access to upgraded technology and ongoing support in how to use it, then student learning and teacher satisfaction will undoubtedly increase.

For more information about promoting the use of technology in education, I found an interesting site through the North Central Regional Education Laboratory (NCREL).

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