12 October 2012

Guns Don't Kill, People Do (or... How It Should NEVER Be About the Device)

"Interesting how students really are involved when you throw a device in their hands."
I hear, read, or see something similar often from policy makers, parents, or teachers, or admin. Don't let them know, but I disagree. Not that technology and mobile devices aren't an iceberg of opportunity to enhance instruction, increase efficiency, and expand spheres of influence, but that the devices themselves bring it.

I feel like the entirety of my Master's program of study was an emphasis on that point. Computers don't help kids learn, teachers using software with clear directions, goals, and feedback do. Calculators don't help kids do math, teachers refining analytical minds do. Tablets, smartphones, clickers, and iPods don't inherently engage students in the lesson, a teacher that invites them to the learning and delivers content on the devices does.

If you're using (or investing) in classroom tech only b/c, "Kids get more engaged with a device" you're headed down an expensive road. Teenagers have short memories and fickle tastes - they'll be bored with the device itself before you're even done with the final stage of your implementation plan.

Devices come here, but YOU don't.
Think about it this way - think of the greatest lesson you've ever delivered. Think about the non-tech materials you used in the instructional plan. Was there a reading out of a book? Did students write together? When you were reflecting on how amazingly well that lesson went, and how much your students learned, did you praise the pencil? 
"I got some Ticonderogas from Target for my class, and man... those kids were so involved with their writing today."
Of course, not! High-yield instructional strategies will always be founded upon what the students are doing with the tools, not the mere existence of them.

New devices DO get kids' attention, and there is always a new level of excitement when we have some new tech toys out in class, but its all pointless if all your students got out of the day was, "We played on the iPads." The same way you can sit in front of the TV, or browse your Twitter/Facebook feed for hours "being productive," I often see a numbing effect on my students of "on-task" behavior being whittled down to not talking to anyone else or distracting others.

iPads, clickers, Smartboards, wireless tablets, and video equipment is exciting to have in the classroom, and I'm so blessed and thankful that I get to play with them so often and experiment, but the danger for me always in instructional planning is focusing too much on the tech and not enough on learning outcomes. I must take a moment to reflect on my lesson and analyze what my students need the tech for in that lesson, and what they'll be learning as a result (and communicating that expectation to the students as well.)

Agree, or disagree? What have you seen with your kids/students?

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Thanks for sharing!