My new goal is to stop talking about education technology.
I see a disconnect between pedagogy and technology right now: in many school districts, there are curriculum directors and administrators working to improve educator effectiveness through curriculum redesign, evaluations, and initiatives like PBIS… and on the other side, there are technology directors working to put technology devices and tools into educators’ hands.
Here’s the thing: using technology does not necessarily make a teacher effective. I am going to repeat that, because I want this to be very clear: technology is not pedagogy. I actually learned that lesson the hard way. I spent my first two months as a teacher building a paperless, hybrid-online, flipped classroom using Moodle, and marching students through standards by having them click through links and complete digital quizzes and activities.
Was I efficient? Yes. Was I engaging students? No.
- Collaborated with students and other staff
- Communicated with students and parents
- Found and shared resources
- Managed student behavior
- Delivered direct content
- Built rich, performance-based assessments
All students log onto the computers and access their essays online- they are using Google Docs, a cloud computing software. All of the students have shared their documents with the teacher, so she is able to go in at any time and comment on student work, wherever they are in the writing process. Because of this, the idea of “draft” has gone away- the writing process has become fluid, and students are constantly working on different aspects of their essays. The teacher notices that some students need work with prepositional phrases, while others need help with a variety of other issues: writing topic sentences, contractions, adding clarity, etcetera. She goes through the documents and adds comments that include links to grammar games on noredink.com, websites that give writing examples, and short videos that teach specific writing topics. When the class starts, all the students go through their own individualized mini-lessons, receiving instant feedback, and then call the teacher over to explain their understanding. They move on to their essays and continue to write. They use the research tool in the document pane to quickly look up information or cite research. At the end of the class, the teacher asks the students to look at their revision history (which shows the timing of how each sentence and paragraph were written) and reflect on their writing process. Students who need to work on their documents at home access their documents from their mobile phones on the bus, iPads, or computers- simply by logging in to Google.
She wasn’t effective because she was using technology. She was effective because she was giving students instant, formative feedback. She was effective because she was individualizing and differentiating her instruction.
Technology was only a tool that was helping her be more efficient in doing that.
Look back at those six tasks that teachers do. The basic work of teaching has not changed. Teachers still collaborate, still communicate, still find and share resources, still manage student behavior, still deliver content, and still assess students.
The difference is that we now have more tools and resources to improve our efficiency.
- Cloud computing is nothing more than finding a more efficient way to collaborate with students and staff
- Content managements systems are nothing more than finding a more efficient way to communicate with students and parents
- Personal learning networks are nothing more than finding a more efficient way to find and share resources
- Behavior management software is nothing more than finding a more efficient way to give formative feedback of soft skills and track student behavior
- Flipped classrooms are nothing more than finding a more efficient way to deliver direct content
- Electronic portfolios and digital quizzes are nothing more than finding a more efficient way to assess student knowledge
Our teachers became teachers to teach. Let’s respect that and focus back on what they do every day in their classrooms.
Let’s stop giving workshops on “Google Docs” or “Flipped Classrooms”. Instead, let’s give workshops on “More Efficient Ways to Collaborate with Students” or “More Efficient Ways to Deliver Direct Content”.
Let’s focus on finding ways to make their daily tasks more efficient so that they have more time to focus on building those authentic learning experiences, on individualizing and differentiating their instruction, and on building creative, inspired, and persistent learners.
Let’s stop talking about teaching with technology… and start talking about teaching.
****Update 9/16/2013***If you liked this post, read the follow-up blog post to find out what a couple of my colleagues & I decided to do about this issue.