Recently, I had a conversation with someone about using technology in the classroom. Though it was acknowledged that students should learn with technology, the conclusion drawn was this. Technology is just a tool.
I think this could be true, depending on what type of teacher one is describing. Teaching with technology just to be cool, modern, or hip is not good pedagogy. However, to downgrade technology to being just a tool misses the point as well.
Could I perform my job without technology? I'm not the type of teacher who teaches straight out of a book. Whenever I come across something that I think I can use in the classroom, I'm always adapting it, revising it, and trying to improve it. It's hopeless. I can't stop tinkering.
I prefer to create my own teaching materials. Even now, after teaching for over 18 years, I still constantly revise my own teaching documents and presentation files -- sometimes from one class to the next because I want to give my students the best work I can produce. So could I effectively do this part of my job without technology? No.
What about research and learning? Without the Internet, I couldn't look for new literature, author biography, current events, or digital media with which to supplement my lessons. For example, one year, I decided to augment my "Flowers for Algernon" unit with medical articles about disabilities to help my students appreciate the challenges of living with a disability. Prior to the invention of the Internet, I would have never thought about doing this because I didn't have the resources.
So how do my students benefit from a technology-rich curriculum?
Having access to technology has enabled my students to write for a global audience. As a result of blogging, my students are far more prolific than those from my previous years, and they also have the added advantage of being able to connect with other students around the world through Quadblogging. This has shown them that the world is bigger than they realized, giving them glimpses of other cultures to which they previously wouldn't have been exposed.
Having access to technology has enabled my students to participate in the Mystery State Project and to have had the opportunity to Skype with a State Senator. We're finally able to bring the world into our classroom.
Having access to technology has enabled my students to create more digital media projects like video animations, live action movies, still photography, comic strips, and podcasts to name a few. These projects taught them how to be creative and collaborative. They learned the importance of revising their work and the necessity of observing copyright laws when choosing their media. They were also more engaged during the learning process.
Could my students learn without technology? Yes. But did technology elevate my students' learning to new heights? Without a doubt.
Like it or not, technology is immersed in our lives - in our homes, at our jobs, and out in the world.
Would you run a company without technology? Then why would you run a school without it?