How is technology helping student learning? Is it just another gadget or are students more engaged and meeting the learning targets? I have read two articles this week that have me thinking about how I am using technology and how I want to use technology. Much of the first 4 Coetail courses were aimed at introducing and integrating technology to bring students to a higher level in Bloom’s taxonomy.
Mind/Shift has an interesting article on just this topic – Amidst a Mobile Revolution in Schools, Will Old Teaching Tactics Work? In this article Elliott Soloway from the School of Education at the University of Michigan, challenges schools to think about what they’ve gained in student achievement through the use of devices. “We are using new technology to implement old pedagogy,” he said. “We are not exploiting the affordances of the new technology to give kids new kinds of learn-by-doing activities.”
The second article 5 Critical Mistakes Schools Make with iPads(And How to Correct Them) further challenges us as educators to rethink how and why we are using technology. The 5 mistakes with iPads are:
- Focusing on content apps
- Lack of Teacher Preparation in classroom management of iPads
- Treating the iPad as a computer and expecting it to serve as a laptop
- Treating iPads like multi-user devices
- Failure to communicate a compelling answer to “Why iPads?”
As I think of what we have been doing at our school I think we have fallen into some of these mistakes. I know we got iPads to begin with because of a request by the Japanese department. They have used the Japanese apps to help with individualizing Japanese class and to engage some of the more reluctant students, but I don’t think we as a staff have had any preparation on how to use the iPads effectively or opportunities to see what are the possibilities to create and communicate using the iPad. I know that Grace, Ruth and I have all purchased our own iPads and have tried out some of the creative possibilities but I think we have all felt a bit limited and personally I’ve been frustrated with some of what I have tried. I have tried to create Voicethreads on the iPad. I got the app and have taped various students. When I have tried to upload them to Voicethread sometimes it works and then other times it has given me an error message that says to check my settings. Unfortunately it doesn’t tell me what to check in my settings and I am at a loss. I have been able to work around it by connecting the iPad to my computer and uploading the clips or photos to my computer and then to Voicethread. It would be nice to have someone to work with who knows a little more or who could help figure out what I’m doing incorrectly. I had hoped to use the school’s iPads to allow the students to create Voicethreads but if they need to be connected to a computer I don’t know how that will work since the school iPads are synched to the tech department computers.
Both of these articles talk about the pitfalls and a bit about what needs to be done. Going back to my original question: How is technology helping student learning? I am excited to see what is happening among my colleagues and in their classrooms. I was able to help the kindergarteners
make a Voicethread about their favorite Mem Fox stories. The first graders also plan to make a Voicethread about favorite books. As the year goes on both of these classes will be able to go back and look at what they did in the past and see how they’ve grown in their use of English and as readers. Our third grade teacher also tried something new using technology. She asked several people on staff if the students could come in pairs to interview them about what they knew about Abraham from the Bible. The students practiced interviewing and videotaping each other in class. The interviews are posted on their blog
and the students can listen to all the interviews and then will be making posters about Abraham. The teacher wanted the students to learn from other people, not just through her lecture, learn interviewing skills and then be able to synthesize the material they heard. I really like the idea of teaching the interviewing and videotaping skills along with the content. These are skills that the students will be able to use to learn about so much more in their world. I’m hoping to try it by first having students interview their parents and then work up to interviewing others on staff or hopefully someday, people who are experts outside of our school. Exactly what does that mean in second grade? At this point in time I’m not sure. But I know that by taking one step at a time I hope to build in students the skills they need to use technology successfully not just to consume but to create and communicate.