Archive for September, 2010

Reflections

As I attended tonight’s EC&I session, I jotted down a few things that I wanted to discuss in my blog tonight and each one is related to questions that I have been struggling with for a while now. While Richard was discussing the history of technology, I was thinking about all of the things that were at one time so exciting and are now common place. From the first time a film strip was used in the classroom to just three years ago when the student’s at my school were excited because all of the classrooms got their own TV and DVD player (note: these have already become kind of useless and I would have rather of had my own data projector but to the teachers that requested these things, this was a huge technological advancement) But I digress, the problem now seems to be that there is so much available out there that only some will be used and eventually for everything, the novelty wears off and it becomes common. As a teacher, especially one that is interested in educational technology, I find it very difficult to choose what to introduce my students to and it does not seem to matter as they are so used to technology now they want to stick with what they know. How do I bust that bubble?

First, I would like to talk about novelty. I have always allowed my students to use iPods at school, in fact, I encourage it. I like that they have a little computer at their fingertips to help them with spelling or give them the answer to a burning question or give them their own private space to work. At first, I was like, the coolest teacher ever, there were iPods all over the place. Now they all have them and they don’t use them as much. When I give them the option of using some kind of Web 2.0 tool they just want to do a poster or if they are really adventurous, use PowerPoint. When I tell them that they are not allowed to make posters and only posters, they act like I cut their arm off. So why is this? apathy? laziness? Boredom? All of the above> My instinct is that in my school it is leaning more towards laziness and the difficulty of breaking them out of their “old school” ideas. (And I mean old school literally) We have relied on novelty to motivate students for a while now and it have come to the point where the market has become saturated. What do we do now that the novelty is wearing off?

I think I should show my kids that video! Personally, I think that PowerPoint are just fancy posters but for some kids, that is thinking outside of the box.

So, if my kids are encouraged to go further than PowerPoint and posters, what do I want them to do? Well, that is where it becomes confusing for me too. There is so much available out there for them to use that it is difficult to decide or learn to use many of the tools. They are familiar with Facebook and things like MovieMaker but when I ask them to use a new tool, they become confused and lost. The thing is, that most kids do not use Web 2.0 tools in their everyday lives. They use social networking tools and when you try to introduce social tools into the classroom, they act like we have walked into their bedrooms. It is hard for them to see that something that they use in their social lives can be used in the classroom and it is hard for them to let go of thinking that it is their’s. I think too that sometimes they find it uncomfortable that their teachers know and use the same networking tools that they do. It makes teachers human and gives them social lives, something that kids don’t think we have. Asking them to use Facebook at school and admitting that you know how to use it is now akin to seeing your teacher buying groceries (remember thinking “they eat food, weird?” I do.) I remember last year one of my students seeing me text after school one day exclaiming “whoa, Mrs. Stinson, you text?” So, social networking in schools is uncomfortable and web tools are unfamiliar, that leaves teachers with yet another task, making it comfortable and familiar. And if you are a teacher that is uncomfortable and unfamiliar, then you have a whole other situation on your hands.

My final thought is concerning the motivation of the student’s themselves. I have been working for three and a half years to encourage students to think about and QUESTION what they are learning/seeing/reading/hearing. From that I try to motivate them to choose where they want to go with their questions and thoughts and what to do when they get there. I like the analogy that was given in class tonight in reference to personal learning; “choose your own adventure” and I fully intend to use it! Some kids embrace this style of learning and some hate it. I know that they hate it because it makes them think, work harder and challenge themselves into something uncomfortable. I also know that it is a set of skills that need to be taught. Technology makes it so much easier as there is instant access to information and endless ways to synthesis it but that also brings us full circle, if the novelty is wearing off and the options are overwhelming, where do we stand?

I guess what it comes down to is that I really believe in the value of using technology as tools for inquiry based learning and I have been taken out of the comfort zone of what I know to be school to pursue it. The difference is that it was my choice to do so and I still have questions about it. I need to remember this when I am working with my students that are embarking on this adventure with me (sometimes against their will) and have a little patience with it all.

I will leave off with an inspirational song. Hope you all enjoy!

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