As more and more tech finds its way into schools teachers are being forced to adopt new technologies at a faster rate than ever before. The days of passing on the the tech to the computer teacher are almost gone as schools outsource IT and eliminate the computer teacher in efforts to squeeze budgets. There is a whole new crop of teachers taking on new gadgets and software without having much more than a couple of days of inservice. Even the new teachers that were born in the 90’s (ouch), into a world of computers are having to take on more duties than new teachers of the past. It is bad enough that we may lose most of them in the first few years but we are going burn them out quicker by adding tech-tutor to their job description as they help their less-savvy neighbor figure out how to check email during a faculty meeting…but i digress.
The Digital Natives Are Coming
We could argue whether or not it is a good thing but that doesn’t help the current teacher that has to make use of this tech today when they don’t feel confident enough to use the tech themselves much less teach it to a bunch of all-knowing children. The solution is not all that hard but requires one very difficult thing: change of attitude. Now I am not talking about how the world is perfect and you should take on 15 new projects with just a smile and the old college try. I am talking about an attitude change in the way we see ourselves in the classroom. We need to see ourselves as less the expert but much more the host/ess. We are going to invite technology into the classroom by way of the assignments we give and the way we expect students to show us they understand.
What does that mean?
Let me give you an example: Let’s say my class is studying the parts of a cell. Of course I consider what it is that I want them to take away from the lesson and emphasize that in my instruction and my grading. So in one of my assignments I may ask them to draw and label a cell or define each part in their own words making a clever comparison to a factory or something original like that. Could I not invite technology into this assignment and say if the students can convey their understanding of this topic using presentation software, a video, their own webpage or a slideshow; it would be acceptable. You don’t have to be tech gurus to see that a student understands the topic regardless if they used pen, paper, camera or computer. I don’t have to know how they did it to see that they understand any better than the next kid, do I? You say, “What about if they had someone do that for them. Their parents hired a Hollywood director and it isn’t fair to the other kids that didn’t do a tech version. ” I say you give that kid a hi-five for a great effort and then you grade them on whether or not they displayed the objective you set out for them and you not grade on the fact they had shiny colors and moving parts. (Don’t get me started on grading…or if you want that, you should ask for it.) The other student that drew it out on paper could have just as easily copied it from a book, etc.
What About Me?
You say, “But that didn’t help the teacher that can’t use the tech themselves.” That is true but you can tackle that with a few options below:
1. Embrace your new attitude of inviting tech to the classroom and see where your imagination and curiosity leads you and your class.
2. Choose 1 piece of technology, start with the basics and use it regularly until you master it. Once mastered pick a new one.
3. Head over to the store and purchase some one-on-one tutoring from yours truly and let’s get to work! (Just kidding…sorta)
Pick one assignment where the end product could be delivered in more than one way. In your directions to the students be sure to tell them:
1. what it is that you want them to prove they understand
2. that they can prove that to you in any way possible or from the following list; presentation, animation, video, play, etc.
Hopefully you will be amazed at what your students can do. I’d bet on it.