Thursday, January 31, 2013

The best way to use technology

This was written by Sylvia Martinez who is is President of Generation YES (Youth and Educators Succeeding), a non-profit organization evangelizing student involvement in education reform through technology integration and service learning. In GenYES, students learn to use 21st century tools and technology to help teachers, peers, and their community improve educational opportunities for all. Sylvia blogs here and tweets here. This post was originally found here.

by Sylvia Martinez

The best way to use tech in the classroom is when the technology primarily supports the process of student learning, not the product. Sure, it's easy to get excited when we find tools that make things easier, but we have to be careful about what's getting automated. Tools that support deep student creativity may take more time to learn, but in the end, give students access to powerful, creative experiences. The learning that takes place on the journey is the real outcome, and a "push-button" tool deprives the child of that experience.

Just like the writing process depends on giving students time to edit and re-write, technology should enhance a student's ability to dive into the process of thinking deeply about their own work. Editing, reflecting, tweaking, refining, and even starting from scratch are crucial elements of the learning process - saving time is not. Technology that gives students multiple ways to approach their own work means that students can develop fluency and ownership of their learning.

And if you are thinking, "Who has time to teach my students something complicated?" - I will suggest to you that complexity is different than depth. Sure there are tools that are not age-appropriate or just plain overkill. But educators often overestimate the extra time it takes to learn a new tool. Don't try to front-load too much information about the tool to the students. Instead, introduce a small project for the students, give them the tool and let them work. Allow collaboration between students to share new discoveries. Encourage home-grown student experts who can answer other students' questions. Time spent becoming fluent with a tool that has depth is time well-spent.

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