While many people easily embrace technology use in the classroom, there are many who wonder why anyone would. They are not sure why they should learn how to do something new or change what they have already been doing. For me it was simple, technology was an easy way to transform the learning that was taking place in my classroom. It was a way to move beyond the ineffective methods of old and introduce new ways to help my students learn. In the end, it has to be about students and their learning. It was not about me, it was about them.
Making changes is never easy and many people will resist those changes as long as possible. The problem is that the world is always changing and we can either change with it or be left behind. Students live in a world where information is at their fingertips and they can connect with others in an instant. Students can collaborate with people across the country and world as well as create and then share out those creations with anyone they want. Yet in many classrooms they are restricted to the information from the teacher or the textbook. They can only work with the person they are sitting next too and can only share with the teacher, or other students in that classroom in some cases. I used technology to help make those changes that my students wanted and needed.
Adding technology by itself wasn’t going to transform the learning, we had to evaluate everything we were doing. The classroom arrangement of rows, which is great for maintaining order but not so great for collaboration, had to go and students were given the chance to help organize the space. I let students work where they needed too, with whoever they wanted, as long as they were learning. The textbook finally served its real purpose of being a resource, not the only resource, and digital resources were quickly curated and organized so students could find and use them. We used Google Apps so that students could work together, no matter where they were or even if they were in the same period, and students were able to share out with a much larger audience than just the teacher. We used social media to connect with others, including experts in whatever subject we were studying. Students created and shared out their creations, being able to express themselves as part of their learning.
The classroom was no longer centered on me and the textbook, it was centered on the students and their learning. This was a process and not one that was completed in a single day or even quarter. I had to be open to exploring and trying things out. I had to connect with others and get ideas that pushed me to evaluate my teaching and focus on the learning. I had to be ok with giving up some control in the learning experience and play a different role than I had in the past. I also had to understand that we would not be using technology all the time but in those instances where it fit. I also had to be ok with asking for help when I was dealing with something I didn’t understand or was unsure about. The reward was a better learning environment that saw fewer behavior issues and increased learning. If all you do is look at technology as a distraction and something that will negatively affect the learning taking place, that has to do more with how you use technology than how it can be used. Remember, even pencils were considered a distraction and were worried about at some point, but yet technology can transform learning much more than a pencil ever could.