There is a push across the country to flood our schools with technology. Along with the devices and additional connectivity comes a flood of questions from educators: How do I have time for one more thing in my classroom? Does my district intend for these devices/programs to replace or minimize me as the teacher? What I have done in the past has worked well; why do I need to change?
The uninformed administrator may think that the right device or program could replace the teacher, make large class sizes more manageable, or some other unwise assertion, but that is definitely not the case. Students best learn when they are asked to think beyond the facts on a page, and that is best achieved in a social setting with a teacher with whom they have a connection. But since students’ lives are flooded with different forms of technology, using edtech undoubtedly helps make content and learning more relevant to students.
The message that should be sent to teachers as we encourage the use of the new technology is that it is meant to heighten the excellent teaching that is already happening, not replace the teacher’s abilities or expertise. Technology is a magnifier of the kind of teaching already taking place in a classroom. For classes where quality instruction is already taking place, adding technology as a tool to enhance that teaching will produce even more amazing things. It is essential for our administrators and educators to see technology as it really is, a tool to make current curriculum even more effective, not an additional and separate subject to teach.
The kind of software and devices that support technology-enhanced teaching and learning are not always content specific, but allow for stronger collaboration and communication between teachers, students and parents. They easily give our students the chance to connect with a global audience, helping our students to engage in work that will travel far outside the classroom walls. They have features that help our students become independent learners. Text to speech and translation features, dictionaries, and search fields all help teach students basic tech skills that, as they are learned, transition students from being totally dependent on their teacher to being self-directed, empowered learners with skills to find answers to their own questions.
Whether you’re speaking to a district administrator, school leader or classroom teacher, it’s important to be aware of the debates going on around the use of technology in the classroom. Technology can make many time consuming tasks such as lesson planning and assessments faster, giving teachers more time to focus on working directly with students. Technology can also make personalizing and differentiating instruction much easier and more effective. But technology is just a tool. A teacher is still going to make the best decisions about what interventions are going to be most effective for each of his or her students. Avoid making promises about how technology is going to magically fix every challenge or woe educators have. Instead, focus on the benefits that will help educators make more informed decisions, use their valuable time in the most productive and beneficial ways, and support their students’ learning.
We need great teachers. We need students learning face-to-face with peers and teachers. The social nature of education will never change. But it is also essential to make technology part of today’s classrooms. As George Couros tweeted, “Technology will never replace great teachers, but technology in the hands of a great teacher can be transformational.”