Teaching or Technology? Can’t we do both?

          I am currently working on my Master’s degree. I am taking a class about research methods. Each assignment that we do is to guide us through the process of writing a research proposal for a Master’s thesis. Our prof created on online forum to which we were supposed to post our research problems and questions, and through discussion, he is hoping that we can refine the focus for our topic and research.
          It has been very interesting reading about others’ topics and the suggestions from others have helped be clarify my own thoughts. My topic was inspired both by discussions of my PLN on Twitter and by my own personal experiences this year. This year I have experienced a true transformation in my teaching. I truly believe that I’ve always been a pretty good teacher, but this year, I have become a very good teacher. Getting my SMARTBoard has pushed me to do more exploring and reading about technology, technology integration, and the balance of tech and true teaching/learning. I have found a PLN that includes experts at all levels of the education system from K-University, and in all subject areas that have pushed me to question, change and adapt the way that I teach. I also started my Master’s this year. Along with those classes have come copious amounts of reading language, literacy, and educational research and theories. These too have changed how I teach. In this vein, my topic for this research proposal is studying the effects of using student blogs on writing ability and attitude towards writing in a second language.

          I know that writing my own blog this year had lead to some deep reflection. Knowing that others are going to read it has also added an element of pressure to make sure that it reads well, sounds intelligent (or at least partially so) and that my grammar and spelling are correct.  At the same time, I know that I am more likely to post to my blog about these reflections than to a notebook because there is the chance that I might get some feedback to my reflections.  And for anyone who has a blog, you know how exciting it can be to receive that message that a comment has been posted!  I am curious to know if these same things that I have experienced this year writing on my blog could work to my advantage with my students when trying to get them to write in their second language…

          So, what prompted today’s post? In the forum for my class, one of my classmates posted a response to my idea that, although I’m sure he had no intentions of doing so, got my blood boiling… He made comments about how using technology in our classrooms (and the technology available to students at home) has “has really trumped human skill development” and that we, as primary teachers are doing the children a disservice by not teaching handwriting, how to write in notebooks, teaching math facts (by using paper flipcards), and other things… He suggested that I somehow bridge handwriting and technology in my research. This was my response:

          “Good point. My focus for the study would be less about the actual technology itself, but more about using it as a means for introducing an authentic audience to their writing (other than just the teacher) and the opportunity for reflective feedback and interaction amongst students through their comments. I have no intentions of taking away the idea of the writing process prior to posting on the blog, in fact, it is a big part of what I intend to do.

          Just as an aside that has nothing to do with my project… In primary we still teach printing and cursive writing, still use flashcards, write our math in notebooks, write paper letters, and use many of the “old” methods of teaching. However, we have kids in our classrooms whose world already looks different than ours did, and with the rate of technology change we are faced with now (see any of the TED talks for some of these changes) we can’t even imagine what their world will look like when they become contributing adult members of society. I feel like it is my job to try to prepare my students for their own futures, and that means teaching them how to integrate technology in their learning.

          Thanks for your response. What is your topic?”

          What do you think? I hope that I didn’t come across too preachy or angry. I mean, I teach. I use technology to enhance my teaching, but in the end, I still teach. Without me, the SMARTBoard, data projector, laptop and desktops in my classroom would just be pretty dust collectors.

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As a follow-up to this post.  I received an answer to my response from my classmate that was in a completely different tone than the first…  He was both respectful and praising of my response and what I am doing in my classroom.  I guess my response was a good one!

5 thoughts on “Teaching or Technology? Can’t we do both?

  1. Hi there,

    This is an interesting post, and I particularly liked it because I’ve just written something about it as well. I do agree with you that blogs allow for authentic readership and it might foster more responsibility towards your writing. In addition to that, blogs are a nice way to engage in discussions. As you well pointed out, it’s thrilling to see other are also thinking about what you’ve written and you can reflect on your thoughts far more easily when engaged in discussions – sometimes you even change your mind entirely! And this is a good thing, as we’re all learning something new.

    However, I believe tech will take care of itself. There’ll be a time in which it won’t be seen as something extra, it’ll just be. Students will bring their laptops to the classroom, and this won’t be seen as a special way of teaching, it’ll be the norm. Most students already get in touch with tech at home, so it’s not like they depend on schools to teach them their way around it.
    To sum up, I don’t think you came across as rude or angry. It’s just an answer that may lead to a nice discussion about the topic – it all depends on how your classmate is going to take it and how open (or narrow) minded he is.

    Cheers,

    Henrick

  2. Hi Henrick,

    Thanks for your feedback. I totally agree with your that the best way for tech to be, is to be! I teach in a community where a lot of my families don’t have access to computers at home, so I want to give these kids a chance to keep up with their contemporaries… Thanks again for responding.

    Jamie

  3. I find it funny that the person’s argument that we are doing a disservice about not teaching handwriting and how to write in notebooks. I rarely use cursive in my life and no matter how much you teach a kid to write in a notebook, there are still some that are absolute disasters. (** although I have yet to figure out the benefits of cursive, I still do it with my kids because they are in love with it!)

    As a drawer and doodler (and a writer – so my students think), I would hate to not have kids physically write on paper (good for fine motor etc etc etc) but they definitely need other means to get those words out! I’d love to hear how your planning meeting went with the blogging project!

    One thing I’ve noticed with grade 3s is that they still know less about technology and typing than I do…. this means, I have to teach them the basics (saving files, printing, where to type the URL) as well as typing (as many are letter pickers). But once those basics are learned – the possibilities are endless with tech. (but who needs to preach to the choir?)

  4. Excellent post, Jamie. Congratulations on taking the high ground with a tempered response. These are big issues, and it is really easy for someone to sound off with an opinion and come across more negative than they intended. Ahhh… another argument for having your students write a lot, and in public forums wherever they can, so they can gain the experience and skills of this kind of writing while they still have your guidance and example to follow.

    One of the things we found in some research I did about online communities was that healthy communities exercise an ethic of forgiveness. Looks like you figured this out a long time ago! 🙂

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