Monday, October 6, 2008


Technology integration isn't about replacing what we do. It is about doing what we do better. It's about teachers and how we teach. It's about students and how they learn. Anything less is technology education, teaching substitution, or, worst of all, behavior modification.

Poor uses of technology in a classroom:
1. Technology education means taking time away from subject area learning and focusing on the acquisition of technology skills. Students should be engaged in meaningful learning experiences to help them demonstrate achievement of content standards.
2. Technology this case, students use technologies to replicate activities they used to do without technology. Nothing is gained with substitution. The kids don't learn more, and time is often wasted. If students need to learn specific technology skills, then the teacher should help the students do so during a meaningful learning opportunity where the focus is on making progress towards meeting content standards.
3. The worst use of technology in a classroom, if we don't count dust collecting, is behavior modification. In this case, the teacher either "allows" computer use as a reward for completing "real work" or as a way to occupy students who have finished their "real work."

Appropriate use of technologies in classrooms:
1. Here is what technology is for: questioning, exploration, discovery, analysis, understanding, application, collaborating, and communication (global voice). This is also known as the learning process. Teachers need to ask themselves, "How can students learn the concepts central to this field of study better through the use of technology?"
2. I seem to hear the same two phrases used to support the use of technologies in schools, and they are both wrong (I think...remember this is JUST ME). One is "prepare students for the 21st century." The other is "life-long learning." Why do we, as educators, talk about preparing students for the 21st century? We are in the 21st century. Students need technological abilities now, both to learn and to live (LEARN IT, LIVE IT, EVERYDAY). Instead of talking about "preparing students for the 21st century," we should be talking about preparing students for their lives when they wake up each day. What is life-long learning? How do you know if students become "life-long learners?" Our job as educators is not to prepare "life-long learners." Our job is to help students develop the skills and abilities they will need to succeed in whatever path they choose. Instead of "life-long learners," we should be preparing life-long succeeders. The result is students who can ask questions, explore, discover, analyze, understand, apply, and communicate understanding.

I admit that computer labs can be used effectively, but only with great consideration for the learning objectives. The best uses of labs are either in a free-for-all setting in which students and teachers may come and go as needed or when they are used sparingly for whole class learning engagement in a meaningful learning activity (i.e., helping students make progress towards meeting standards). What works better under most circumstances is to put the computers into those classrooms where they will be used appropriately. Education research indicates that a 4:1 student to computer ratio seems to work best in most instructional environments. With most effective use, not every student needs a computer all the time, nor do all students typically need a computer at the same time. If the instructional design limits computer use to whole class exercises, then the instructional design also limits effective learning.

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