16 May 2012

Shifting the focus

In NJ, many school districts use an online application process for hiring in which there is a question that reads: "From your point of view, how important is technology in education?"  When personal computers first hit education, they were productivity tools; devices that simply made publications, spreadsheets, and typing documents easier to create.  As they became more advanced, computers turned to devices for consumption of information through CD-Roms and eventually web site searches.  Unfortunately, too many teachers see integrating technology as one more thing they have to do rather than using them in ways to make their lives easier.  I think we need to shift the focus.


Chris Lehmann said in his presentation at ISTE11 in Philadelphia, “technology should be like oxygen; ubiquitous, necessary, and invisible.”  We need to help teachers realize that technology is not something else we have to do, but rather that it can help make our jobs easier and replace some of the things we currently use.  I encourage students using cell phones in my class, especially during lab days.  What better way to document a chemical reaction than to take a picture of it and put it along side a data table on the lab sheet?  Why should students have to make a graph by hand, on graph paper, when spreadsheets will do it for them as well as do the calculations necessary for the graph?  If a student has a question about material from class, why shouldn't I encourage them to pull out their phone and simply Google the response?  Sure they can raise their hand, wait for me to call on them, and hope I have the answer.  But, isn't it better for them in the long run if I teach them to find the answer on their own.


One of the most common phrases in my house growing up was, "go look it up."  My parents weren't shirking their parental duties.  They were teaching me to take ownership of my learning.


We need to shift the focus of technology from "integration into learning" to "ubiquitous part of learning."  We need stop viewing mobile devices as distractions (yes, sometimes they represent that too) and start recognizing the power they have to create stronger students.


Now the question becomes, how to we make this happen?