One of my great friends, Donnie Piercey, does an outstanding keynote presentation called “How NOT to EdTech” and it got me thinking about when and if it’s ever okay NOT to “edtech” at all. In this era of digital tools, should we ever take a step back and say “Just let my students WRITE”? I think the answer is a resounding YES.
I had a conversation just this morning about the “lost art of writing.” Are we “shortchanging” our students by sticking them on a Chromebook every day in class? Or having them whip out their phones and tablets for assignments when they spend most of their outside-of-school time texting, talking, snap-chatting, instagramming and facebooking? As I reflect on this question myself, I firmly believe that all great and wonderful things in life should be done with moderation. Including “ed-teching” in your classroom.
I think students need (and probably crave) a healthy balance between analog and digital. How do we move forward and embrace technology and innovation in our classroom while never forgetting about that notebook we required on the school supply list? As our district begins to embrace GAFE more and more each day, I think it’s important to remember that our main goal is to provide authentic, engaging instruction to our students every day. That is the bottom line. Some days that may require a Chromebook while other days it may require scissors and glue.
One thing I try to stress to every single teacher and administrator is that tools like Google Apps allow us to be more efficient. They are tools that equip us and ultimately allow us to be more and do more without actually DOING more.
Molly Hazle, Visual Arts at East Hardin Middle School, is a perfect example of this balance. Molly has admittedly struggled with technology integration in her classroom and during the 2014-2015 school year, she made it part of her professional growth goals. She began with a simple instructional video for her clay processes unit. She made this video just as she would have taught her students in person while adding cues and written directions to the video content. (You can find her original clay processes video here.) Molly started simple. She showed the video on her projector to her whole group of students. While the video was playing, Molly was preparing the clay, tools and water for her students. When the video ended, the students were immediately ready to begin the process. Molly had 1 iPad in the classroom. When a student had a question, came in late, needed the original assignment the following day…she was able to direct them to the video. As a result of this ONE video, Molly immediately noticed positive changes in her classroom:
- Fewer behavior issues Previously, she would gather students around 1 table while she demonstrated the process and taught the lesson. Some students would goof off in the back while some students were unable to hear thus becoming distracted and disrupting the entire group.
- More teacher-student time Since the clay, tools and water were prepared and ready immediately following the direct instruction of the lesson, Molly was able work more closely with students instead of managing logistics.
- More time and energy Repeating instructions to absent and tardy students several times a day is time consuming and distracts from our ultimate purpose of teaching all our students. Molly noticed immediately that her frustration level was lower and her interactions with students were more positive and intentional! Subsequently, Molly was ahead of schedule. This allowed her to create more meaningful instruction for her students for which she previously would not have had time. Efficiency!
This year, compliments of a PTSA grant at EHMS, Molly has integrated 6 iPads into her classroom. These iPads will serve as a learning station for students seated at each table. Here are some ways Molly is utilizing a small number of devices in a very big way:
- Assignment Turn-In: Through Google Classroom, Molly will have students take photos of their Sketch book and various other visual assignments and submit to her via Google Classroom. Tools like Goobric, Doctopus and Kaizena allow Molly to send digital feedback to students more quickly without her having to stack crates and crates of work in the trunk of her car every afternoon. Efficiency!
- Instructional Videos: Molly has a goal this year to flip her entire class. She started this summer with yet another series of videos. Check out her playlist here.
- Digital Classroom “Hub”: Molly created an online space for her classroom via Google Sites. She houses her instructional videos here in addition to daily assignments, objectives and photo galleries. Students can access this information at their table, immediately, with a touch of a finger.
Molly hasn’t digitalized her curriculum. Her students always have dirty hands and when you pass her in the hallway it’s a known fact she’ll probably have paint on her dress pants. It’s one of the most exciting things about her classroom. Molly has created a classroom of balance between analog and digital. She has embraced the digital tools necessary to make her a more engaging and authentic teacher which has ultimately allowed her to better reach every student in her classroom.
In summary, “ed tech” isn’t synonymous with innovative, engaging and authentic instruction. Sometimes scissors, glue and paint on your dress pants are necessary. We should allow our students to touch real books once in awhile. If we keep students as the priority and consistently strive to be the best we can be for them…we are on the right track. If that means popping open the Chromebooks, let’s do it! But if not “ed-teching” is the right choice for a lesson…embrace the mess. I hear Etown Cleaners does a mean job on dress pants.