I was somewhat stumped as to how to engage my Methods students after two snow days and the Presidents’ Day Holiday. My worries were short-lived, since I developed a Ning site for my Methods’ students, so that they could continue learning even without the use of college grounds or a classroom. I am not a tech geek, but a practical educator. I know that I need to engage my students beyond the classroom in time and space.
I have several educational videos on the site, but two served my purpose well. One was an interview with Howard Gardner on Multiple Intelligences and the other was Myths and Opportunities: Technology in the Classroom by Alan November. I asked my students to view both videos and discuss the merging of ideas of these educators. To add another dimension, I also said that they may want to consider Bloom’s Taxonomy in their positions. I sat back and asked, How good am I? (Totally Rhetorical)
After the first few responses I began to question my teaching methods. The early student responses were saying that technology was an encumbrance to education. I had one student argue that cashiers could not make proper change unless the cash register told them how much change to give. The argument was blaming the technology for the cashier’s inability to make change in his or her head without the aid of the register. I did not point out that the cashier probably would not have had that job if the technology was not compensating for what the cashier did not learn in school. We sometimes view the same things, but perceive them differently.
Of course, I was upset with the initial responses. I wanted these students to learn what I know and take it further. Based on the initial responses, that was not going to happen. I felt that I had gone wrong in my presentations of technology as a tool in education. How could these students move education forward, if they fail to understand the technology component as clearly as I do? Yes that is totally arrogant on my part, but it is important to me to have my students be relevant. Technology, to me, makes them relevant educators.
This was a little too much to deal with. After all, the Olympic games were going on. I was upset, but I decided to put it aside to watch and enjoy the Olympics. Of course that did not work out. The initial discussions from my students were turning over in my mind. Why didn’t they get it? I know that I taught that technology is only a tool and not the education.
As I watched the Olympics I was thinking of how I could get a redo on this topic of technology as a tool for educators? That was the very moment that NBC, trying to fill a period of time when nothing was going on, did a piece on the garments created for the skiers to keep them warm and dry, as well as massage the athlete’s muscles. It was technology at its best. From that point forward, I honed in on all of the technological advances that helped the Olympic athletes. Clothing, sleds, skis, gloves, skates and anything else that an athlete needed was being tweaked by technology. Technology was the tool to help the athlete complete the event.
That is when I saw it. If learning was the event and students were the athletes what would they need to get to the end of the event? What technology could we provide to get them to achieve the goal. We did not need suits, gloves, or skis, but tools for collaboration, exploration, and communication. If athletes in the Olympics use tools of technological advancement to succeed at their events, then students in schools may use tools of technological advancement to succeed at learning. Teachers are not replaced by the tools, they become the coaches. Much like today’s athletes who participate in various events in the Olympics, students participate in learning. To succeed in attaining that goal, technology is a tool to get the student there. It enables him or her to get there faster and with richer experience then in the years past.
After I came to this realization and what I considered a great analogy, I went back to the discussion page of my class Ning site. I was happy to see a large number of contributions to the discussion. Many of the new entries exhibited a clear understanding of technology as a tool for learning and not the end result.I may have been to quick in my early assessment. Many students were smart enough to quote not only my words from classes, but also many of the wise words from my Blog posts. They were using technology to pump up the professor’s Ego. After all of my reflection and assessment, I may have accomplished my objective with a number of my students without going over it again and beating their knuckles with a ruler. That was the old school method.