Technology brings change | Chalkboard Project

Technology brings change

Tuesday, November 13, 2012 Ruth Wallin

Despite lots of change in the world of standards and teacher expectations, there are many classroom teachers who in the past could fit new standards into the same projects and lessons they have assigned year after year. These teachers seemed impervious to change. However, change is here for all teachers, and it is not coming from policy makers; it’s coming from technology.

Google Apps

It used to be that technology was something available to a few students and lurked on the fringes of things happening in the classroom. That’s the case no longer. For example, my district has adopted Google Apps. Every student district wide has an account and stores his or her work in the cloud. Students can share their work and collaborate with anyone in the district. This bit of technology has revolutionized what’s happening in my classroom. Collaborative project work is easy and writing and reading are more social. My students keep book logs with reviews that they share electronically with their peers. No more book reports that are handwritten, graded and recycled. Doing work that has a purpose motivates kids.

Technology and Standards

Technology has forced me and my peers to reevaluate some of the practices we have had in place for years. My latest dilemma was whether I should require students to handwrite rough drafts or let them compose on the computer. Will I be able to monitor their revision and editing skills? Do I need to? I’m finding that my students who haven't written much in their lives are creating masterful pieces on the computer just because they can edit quickly, it looks neat, and they don’t have to challenge their fine motor skills by writing by hand.

Another practice going by the wayside is the weekly spelling test. Unsure of whether spell-check will completely save my poor spellers, I still have weekly words, but my lists are on the computer and catered to differing spelling levels. Students can take the test on the computer and restudy as many times as possible in order to master the words. This means students can work at their own pace on what they need to learn. This brings up another question about old practice. Should every kid be allowed to get top marks in spelling even if they took the test multiple times? If the purpose is for students to spell well, why not?

Common Core Standards

As we look to implementing Common Core Standards, which ask our students to integrate knowledge to produce unique thinking, we need to replace many of our past protocols with those that involve higher-level thinking. There are a myriad of programs that allow self-paced work. This will make the teacher’s role into more of a resource rather than a disseminator of knowledge. If we use our technology correctly, we will have every child learning at their level instead of having some kids waiting for others to get it, or some struggling to keep up. Could we in the future have education where the basics that require mastering a task or memorizing facts be left to master at home on the computer, while at school students are guided by teachers to focus on larger questions that involved integrating learning and collaborating in groups to tackle larger projects and issues?

Where are we going?

I like where we are headed because I think that Americans of the future, if raised on technology, will be innovative, collaborative, flexible thinkers. The problems we face now are making sure that every class has access to technology, that teachers are trained in using technology and that teachers make researched, measured use of the tools. We need to carefully sift through past practice and keep the very best. Technology’s presence in the classroom will force teachers to mesh the new standards with new practices, while retiring some tried and true practices that no longer fit with what our kids will face in the future.

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