How is that technology being used? Is it just an expensive pencil?

Oct 03, 2015 Categories: Changing_Times, Education Today
Every week I work with Principal’s and teachers who have invested (often a lot of money) in technology for the kids in their schools. And every week I have the same conversations about why are we doing this? Why spend all this money and effort if what kids do in the classroom remains the same. And every week I say the same thing. If you don’t change how you teach and students learn wit technology, you’ve just bought yourselves some very expensive pencils.
What do I mean by that? Well, you can read about the SAMR Model for technology use in this post. But basically, most technology use begins (and often stays) at a low level of use.
Substitute & Augment 
Teachers ‘Substitute’ the tech tool for another tool. So instead of working out double-digit addition on pen and paper, they get the kids to draw it on an iPad app. Exactly the same task but there’s some ‘fun-factor’ to using the iPad.
Sometimes they’ll use technology to add something (we call it ‘augmenting’ learning) – like maybe using an app that self corrects the kids’ work instead of the teacher having to collect the sheets and do the marking. It’s really just the same task though. The kid does the question, he finds out if he’s right or wrong. Then he tries again. No interaction with others or demonstration that he learns from his mistakes.
These types of activities really just use the technology as Expensive Pencils. There’s no real changes to learning or teaching or any real benefit at all.
Some folks always argue with me and say that the kids are ‘so much more engaged’ when they do rote and drill on the iPad. That’s great and for some kids it’s really needed. But if that’s the only things we ever do with our technology we aren’t getting enough out of our big time and money investment. Also, engagement doesn’t last that long. We get about 3 weeks and then kids move on to the next thing – the technology becomes a part of the classroom, nothing exciting.
Modifying and Redefining Learning
We really need to see the teaching and learning change so that there’s more in-depth use of the tech. So, that means interactive, creative activities that require kids to talk to other kids and other experts (inside and beyond the school). It means that they might create a maths problem blog where they post complex questions and ask for help to solve it. Where they take on board others’ suggestions
My message to you as parents is to question what’s going on in schools and what the intentions are when you are asked to spend $500 on an iPad or laptop. How is the school going to make use of the device?
As well as at school – what are you kids doing at home? If it’s homework, can it be more interactive, more collaborative, more creative?
We know that if we help kids use technology this way they will be more independent, self-motivated and driven learners – a great set of skills for the real-world, right?

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