Focus on the Students!
I have a whiteboard in my office where I write out ideas and post the important stuff that I need to be focused on. I have always done this, when I was a teacher and even when I was a student. In college I wouldn’t have been able to pass my upper level physics classes if it wasn’t for the large whiteboard in my room. In my new role as Technology Integrationist, I have a much different focus than I have had in the past, or do I?
I came into this year thinking about the teachers and the needs that they would have as we transition into this new environment where every student has a laptop. I spent three years previously at a school where I was there before and during the 1:1 implementation. I knew the issues that teachers would have and some things that would work and some that would not in helping the teachers. The first couple editions of my whiteboard had a focus on the teachers, that is where I thought my focus was supposed to be. But as I kept looking at this board I just had this feeling that I was missing something. I would erase some things, rewrite others, add a little here and there, but something felt missing.
This morning I saw a graphic that discussed the differences between using technology and technology integration. (link to graphic) In the top third of the graphic it starts to talk about the technology use, whether it is by the teachers or is it by the students. True technology integration is when the technology is there for the students to use, not just the teachers. That was it, I needed to add one more thing to my board to at least make it work better. The focus has to be on the students.
Well, the big focus has to be on the students but in order to get that focus, we also need to help the teachers so that we can focus on the students. One issue many people find in their 1:1 implementation is that you run into cases where some teachers are afraid to use the technology or allow the technology to be used by students because they do not have a high confidence in their abilities with the technology. Their lack of confidence in the technology or their ability with the technology causes the teachers to ignore the opportunities for learning that can happen by students when the students are using the technology.
Our goal should always be focused on student learning, but we also have to remember that there are a lot of variables that affect student learning so we need to be aware of all of them. In order to have an effective learning environment, we need to make sure our teachers feel comfortable using the technology with the students and allowing the students to use technology in ways that best fit them. We need to make sure we give our students the options they need in order to learn best and the options they want in order to express that learning. Technology can help us do so much in the classroom but if our focus is not on student learning, then even the best technology becomes obsolete instantly.