For the past two years, my students and I have been purposely learning how to move about in this world of technology to write, learn, and grow. We learn together, and we blog together. It has been, and still is, a priceless experience for all of us. I have learned much about teaching, guiding, and this world, their world, of technology.
What I discovered is that today’s students do not need us to teach them how, they need us more to show them what is important and why. Most students already know how to take the world they have at their fingertips and find, within seconds, how to do pretty much anything.
The tech world is filled with endless learning opportunities, as well as countless dangers. And if in case you didn’t already know it, our students are already living in it, manipulating it, and learning from it. We can remain stuck in trying to teach the latest program or app, in a desperate attempt to integrate tech, or we can embrace its continuous change, and guide our students into using technology as a rich and ever-changing learning environment.
What educators must consider is the time spent having students use technology as a "tool" by primarily offering tech as a packaged program, and the time spent using technology as a learning environment.
What are we doing with technology in our classrooms?
Sometimes it feels like teachers and students are bombarded with online programs and apps that push “educational tech.” We often find ourselves hurrying to learn, practice, and perfect, before we feel “good enough” to turn around and teach our students yet another wonderful program, one in which may soon be outdated (if not already extinct). Launching tech in this way is deeply stressing to both teachers and students.
Our classrooms are oftentimes limited with the technology of “educational” programs and apps. Many of these programs seem only to take what was once done on paper onto a screen. And that’s not new or innovative.
There is a clear disconnect between our “educational tech” world, and the plethora the world of technology has to offer our students. There’s so much more out there to learn, so much more than packaged reading programs.
And while we fumble and stress over how to work a new program or app, our students are probably wondering… What’s the point? To be honest, I sometimes wonder the same thing.
Students Know Technology
Our 21st Century students know technology. Some students can do more than we could imagine with technology. It may just be a 21st Century student’s craft. However, their work in this craft needs our guidance.
Last week, one of my students requested to attend Hour of Blog, our after-school writing club. I asked, “How did you hear about it?” He answered, “Billy told me about it on Snapchat.” These are 9-year-old kids. Did it surprise me that they were using Snapchat? Only slightly. These 9-year-old students are online. They are learning. And odds are, there is little guidance for them in this space.
Students need guidance in this ever-changing technological environment, and through the process of what they are learning and creating with technology. It is a dangerous place to leave our students on their own, without guidance.
Technology should be as accessible in learning as a pencil; it shouldn’t be an event. How many pencil labs do you have in your school? – George Couros ‘Inequity and BYOD’
Technology is a rich part of our world. It is awesome to be a learner in our world today, with the world at our fingertips. It would be truly ideal to have a laptop or an iPad available to each one of my students… every single day. We would do so much.
What would we do?
We would explore, research, write, reflect, blog, respond, collaborate, communicate, create, build community, and much, much more. We would learn how to use this space, this technological environment for good. And students would get more of a chance to understand why it is better to use it for good, than for activities considered questionable or unsafe. It would be easier to guide them with consistent use, daily use.
Checking out a laptop cart once a week does not offer that same impact. Once a week is not enough.
Technology is Much More Than a Tool
Technology is not “just” a tool. It is much, much more than that… it is the opportunity for great shifts in learning, for great access. Technology can transform a learning environment.
We have a great opportunity to lead our students into becoming independent critical thinkers, who communicate, collaborate, and create without hesitation in a global society. There is so much to learn, so much continuous change, and such a need for quickly adapting to new spaces. Students need consistent access to technology to practice these 21st Century skills.
Our students will continue in this technological world with us or without us. They need our guidance. They are much too valuable a part of our future to let them go at it alone.
Marina Rodriguez is a California native, living and teaching in Texas, and a National Writing Project, Heart of Texas Writing Project, Teacher Consultant.