This week I read a great blog post on Remote Access that talked about the struggles involved in pushing students outside of their comfort zones with technology. I agree it is worth the struggle to make these hard choices about what to include or not include, and what tools we use or don’t use to reach our goals.
I have been thinking this week about what we gain and what we give up when we integrate more technology into our teaching.
Even in a classroom where the teacher is a tech genius (the opposite of my own classroom!), there are drawbacks to using technology. For every ten minutes spent using technology, ten minutes of a different type of learning activity is lost. I don’t ache for the loss of time to do worksheets, but I still find value in doing a skit in French in front of the class. Live. Without the chance to film it over. To watch peers smile at the silly portions of the plot as they act them out. I still find value in students listening to conversations in the classroom, and having to make split-second decisions about how to reply. If my students are using technology, they are having less of those other traditional interactions with me and with their peers in the classroom. And that may be perfectly ok. But it is only ok if what I have them do with technology is more valuable than the activities they won’t have time to do.
I believe that good teachers show students new ways of thinking, and new ways of interacting with information and ideas. I wonder if face-to-face interaction pushes the comfort level and the thinking of some students more than technology does. There are students who live in such a technology-saturated world that unplugging for a while might benefit them. Doing a low-tech project pushes those students to be creative and engaged in different ways. Slowly writing down their French dialogue ideas with a pencil on a sheet of paper is not necessarily a bad thing. Standing up in front of their peers and having live feed-back isn’t a bad thing either. Just because the same thing might have been done in a language classroom 20 years ago does not automatically make it a terrible thing to do. As much as I don’t want to do something “because it is how things have always been done,” I think it is equally dangerous to refuse to do something for the same reason.
I think it is all about finding balance. I need more technology in my classroom at this point, not less. That is for sure. But as I go forward and integrate more technology in my classes, I want to remain aware of what my students are NOT doing when they are using technology instead. I want to use technology to enrich my students’ learning, and not just because it is the newest website or app. If I am purposeful in my instructional choices regarding technology, the opportunity costs will be well worth it because of what my students will gain instead. I just have a long way to go before I feel confident that I have the right tools and the correct balance in using those tools appropriately.