Sunday, August 17, 2014

Step Up - Look at Things in a Different Way

Step out of the Box, Try something New
I like a spirited debate, but more importantly I like any conversation that makes me think. I'll start by sharing this quote, "If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow." -John Dewey. The world that we knew and the world today, is far from being the same. We have to “Step Up" and teach students how to be creative, communicate, problem solve, and collaborate using skills that are needed today. How are we suppose to have student engagement, when we are not up-to-date? We are not meeting the needs or demands of the changes in our society or our students. 

The cost is going to come whether it be with devices or textbooks. The textbooks become outdated and only take us so far. The device allows a classroom to finally explore beyond the textbook and classroom walls. It's actually going to save us money, once we fully implement technology. 
I agree, "it's the new thing, kids like it" is very lame. That's not the answer. Look how long we have had computers and technology in our schools, it’s not new. However, technology is new in the world, because it changes practically everyday. Today our students experience instant feedback and they are finding answers to their own questions. Why are we not providing this to our students? It’s our chance to guide and teach in new, exciting ways. We need to tap into this and take our students to the next level. Our students should be keeping up with educators not the other way around. 

The device is simply a device, what you do with the device is the bigger question. A lack of devotion to 
pedagogy, professional development, creativity, and learning how to play/try new things is a definite “fail” no matter what technology you try to use. The device is simply a tool to enhance the learning experience. It’s certainly not a foreign object and this tool creates endless possibilities for your classrooms, when used in the right ways. The focus HAS to be on teaching not the device. 

However, at our level, there still needs to be the balance of face to face and online learning. A device can help reach all students, and those students that you would never hear from otherwise. A device speaks volumes for students with learning disabilities/impairments. This alone answers the question “why use technology/devices?” Talking about reaching and teaching to all, this is a great starting point. 
Some of our parents struggle with reading, math, writing, etc..., but a device will read a story to a child and the parent. The teacher can post a video working through a math problem. This bridges the gap from school to home. It allows the parent to actually understand and then begin to help. We will not reach all parents and we can't make them help, that is reality. However, we can model and educate to the best of our ability, because example is one of the best ways to teach. 
Few Examples.. 
Example: Enhancing the communication and collaboration with the students in a class through a forum discussion board vs. classroom discussion. This allows students to think beyond the 45 minute class period, instant feedback within discussion forum, continuing the discussion, and will bring students to the discussion that would never say a word in class. 
Example: Google Earth- virtually step out of the classroom and travel across the U.S. to explore the aircraft bone yard, White House, Gettysburg, etc.., 
Example: Google Maps - Street View- learn how to get from point A to point B. Practice giving directions in Spanish while navigating streets in Google Maps - Street View. 
Example: Google Hangout- pen pals to a whole new level, mock interviews, foreign language pen pals, virtual speaker for your class/topic, etc…, 
Example: record directions for students and parents or record lecture for viewing at a later date for students who are absent. 

We cure the disease by having balance and educating proper use. Understanding that you can "unplug" is key to understanding how technology can enhance, not hinder our work-life balance. We need to model ways to have that balance with students, parents, and our own families. Technology is neither good nor bad in a sense. The same hammer can both break windows and build cathedrals. It's how we utilize and create the destination for our goals. What kind of learning do you want to build for your students? Where do you want to go? 
Without the eagerness to learn/try new things, self-explore, be open-minded to change, step out of the box, and understand that a device is just a tool, nothing is going to change. “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used, when we created them.” -Unknown 

We can get hung up on the pros and cons of technology/devices. Technology is in our everyday lives whether we want it to be or not. The world has changed and continues to make huge strides with technology. Why would we not educate our students with tools they are expected to use in the real world setting? When students leave our building for the workforce or college, are we preparing them for what lies outside of our building? Are they equipped with the necessary skills? These are the questions we need to be asking ourselves.