Just try to stop technology in the classroom, and you might have better luck trying to stop a freight train. Harry Keller, Editor of Science Education and Literacy for ETC Journal (educational technology & change), writes in Technological Literacy: The Key to Education Reform that by combining technology with literacy can we reform education. Much more than simply “one of the latest buzz phrases in education,” technological literacy is not isolated technologies such as interactive white boards and iPads that surface in classrooms followed up by literacy lessons. The concept is about knowing how to effectively use technology, hands-on, in the classroom.
But knowing how to use technology is the first step, and knowing how to effectively use it is the second step. I know an “old-school” elementary-level teacher who is not technologically savvy. For the most part, she doesn’t respond to parent emails with emails. She asks students and support staff how to use the classroom ipads. This doesn’t make her a bad teacher, she is simply “technologically illiterate” in a district that is becoming heavily technologically literate. But what Keller would say in this case is “the solution [to our current education crisis] is at hand, but without technological literacy in our schools right down to the classroom teacher, it won’t be implemented, and we’ll continue down the slope to increasing failure.” That kind of implication makes me want to meet with her to gently show how these things work.
Just having technology available in a school system is not the answer – Keller argues that we now need “the ability to understand and evaluate technology” – both from a teacher perspective and district perspective. He writes that “anyone in the implementation chain must also be able to understand the implications of the decision to use a particular technology.”
Yet even our young students are technologically savvy, often referred to a “digital natives” – and we know that we can reach students this way. With the increase in online literacy programs like Big Universe and the multitude of learning apps for typical and special needs students, we need to use technology effectively, otherwise it becomes simply a replacement for a chalkboard.
Tonya Wright in Technology and Literacy in the Early Childhood Classroom, writes that “the early childhood community has been slower to catch when it comes to technology. A recent survey of early childhood professionals by Child Care Information Exchange revealed that among child care centers, most that use technology only do so for administrative purposes such as accounting or record-keeping; and classroom use is often limited to educational software.” Yet “technology can positively impact classroom practices” – from “lesson plan ideas, recipes, and classroom themes,” even by preschool students.
She suggests using digital images (in a slide show), e-pal sites, create student electronic portfolios, and Word-processing and desktop publishing software. Her suggestions are great as the real-life applications to these includes technological literacy, a basic skill set for many of today’s jobs, and includes capabilities such as creating slide show presentations, interacting with others through digital means, and before even getting the job, creating a visual portfolio on a leave-behind CD after an interview.
This doesn’t mean the old school teacher I referred to has to throw out the chalk with the chalkboard. Clearly our district is pushing a current technology, and I'd like to see them be held accountable for teaching her how to use it. She'd be surprised how quickly it would become just another tool to effectively teach. Is your district pushing a particular technology that others seems to be struggling to use?
Image courtesy of M - Pics at FreeDigitalPhotos.net