I recently had the opportunity to visit some classes at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. I observed some things that led me to truly question whether it should be an option for a teacher to say, “I’m just not that into technology.”
In one 8th grade class, a teacher was giving an algebra lesson using an interactive whiteboard, a remote tablet, and an enhanced PPT, with graphics, movies embedded, etc. He would walk around the room as he used the tablet, circling areas on the screen to which he wanted to draw attention. He had the kids go up to the whiteboard and demonstrate problem-solving techniques. EVERY SINGLE STUDENT WAS ENGAGED. One student even had an assignment (I’m assuming from another class), in which she had to take care of an interactive doll. During class, the doll started “crying” and the student had to “feed” her, sit the doll on her desk, rub her back, etc. Even with all of these distractions, the girl was completely absorbed in the lesson, raising her hand and offering answers.
Later, I was walking down the halls of a high school. I was amazed at how little had changed since 1990….same lectures, same overhead projectors. I observed another algebra class in which the students were graphing equations. There was definite learning going on, but in one exchange I observed, a student raised his hand to ask for clarification of how the graph will change given two similar equations. The teacher drew a quick graph on the overhead and showed the student the difference. The student nodded, made a note, and the class went on. I’m assuming the student made a note to help him remember the information for an upcoming test, but did he really understand the difference in the two equations? How would this lesson have been different if he had a laptop on his desk and was using interactive software to watch the graph change as he entered different equations?
In a final observation, two identical elementary lessons (by content, at least) were being taught: one with every child using a Palm, the other by listening to a lecture. In the first class, every child was engaged and conversing with a nearby student about the lesson. In the other classroom, every corner was occupied by a student who had presumably been sent there for disciplinary reasons….plus an additional student at the file cabinet corner.
Is it any longer acceptable to teach with outdated methods, using archaic technology? How do we balance honoring teachers’ comfort levels with technology vs. creating learning environments that excite, engage, and provide our students with the experiences they need to do the best work they can do?