Tech Use in Our Classroom

A graduate student at VA Tech wrote to ask me some questions about the use of digital technology in my classroom for a paper she’s writing. I was happy to respond. I’ve also posted my responses below because I couldn’t resist the opportunity to turn in an assignment for “credit” in two places (killing two birds with one stone) 🙂

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1. How often would you say you use technology in your English classroom?
80-90% of the time. The other time is used for independent reading and an occasional paper-based activity.

2. What technology is being used in your classroom? (devices or programs)
Each student has his or her own Lenovo X201 tablet PC. We use a number of software/sites, including Microsoft Office Suite and free, online tools (VoiceThread, WordPress, Glogster, SpicyNodes). I also have a tablet, a ceiling mounted LCD projector, and a Kodak Zi8 cam. Unofficially, I use my iPhone to record or take pics if the Kodak isn’t handy.

3. Do you use technology because it’s your choice, or because of the school requires it of you?
Part of the school’s mission is to use technology for innovative teaching and learning. Even if that weren’t a part of my charge, I’m sure I’d still be using it to the extent it was available.

4. When it comes to the ways you use technology, what have your students responded most positively to? (A media project, the use of a certain device, etc)
My students like flashy, fun things (Glogster, SpicyNodes, etc), but I think this is because they’ve become accustomed to much of what we do with digital tech. I’ve stopped trying to one up myself in terms of flash, though, and focus on (co-)creating projects that are compelling and meaningful. I think our students love that they have their own blogs and have ownership over that space.

5. What did your students respond most negatively to in terms of technology?
They get impatient when things do not work or do not work as quickly as they want them to. I see this as a side-benefit though. Using technology offers plenty of opportunity to talk about failure and patience, two things which my students (and I!) struggle mightily with.

6. Has your teaching style changed because of technology? If so, how?
I haven’t really taught much without technology, although I suspect that the tech has pushed me to think more creatively and to view myself not as an expert in the classroom, but rather a guide and a curator.

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7. In your opinion, is technology helping students become better readers and writers or would they be better off without it?
I think the question presumes that a world for students might exist without technology. Some schools try to create this, but they risk further alienating students and setting them up for huge culture shock when they enter the “real world.” Can technology help students score better on standardized tests? Maybe, but that’s not a direction I want to argue. Can teachers help students learn to use technology in a way that will make them more empathetic, creative, and literate people? Absolutely, but it’s about the use, not the only the tech.

8. How often are your students teaching you about technology? Is that something you are comfortable with?
All the time. I love when they show me a site I haven’t seen or a shortcut I’ve missed. I think if I weren’t comfortable with this it would evidence a resistance to learning and a lack of humility, which would be horrible modeling for students.

9. What is your biggest concern when it comes to your students using technology in the classroom?
I’ll answer that instead with some of my hopes. I guess my concern would be the times we fall short of those hopes. I want them to use the technology well, in a way that makes them more human rather than less. I don’t want them to get so sucked into their screens that they forget others around them, but I want them to use their screens to remember and discover those they cannot see. I want them to be creators, not just consumers. I want them to understand the why as well as the how. I want them not to take for granted the resources that they have been afforded.

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