Engagement Through Technology (EvsE Part 2)

Let’s continue on with my reflections from Doug Johnson, part duece.   This little post (who are you kidding – you know I’m long-winded) is more about technology then just entertainment vs. engagement.  Not only did I feverishly tweet about that topic during my first 45 minute session with Doug Johnson, but I tweeted about technology and managing it in our schools.  Yes, I know, I’m an art teacher talking about non-art stuff.  That’s a lie and you know it – this applies to our classroom as much as it does others and in fact, because we are teachers who naturally engage students – we can be the best advocators for doing this the right way!

“This is not rocket surgery.” – Doug Johnson

It all comes back to that, doesn’t it?  That this is only as hard as you make it.

Well, if you’ve ever heard people argue that technology, even cell phones and social networking should be banned in schools then this is some of the information you will want to relay to those administrators and educators holding you back.

Technology, itself, is not bad – is not even – is not the problem.  How it is used is the problem. So often I hear teachers, young and old, saying that technology is a problem. To heck with Facebook and all the social networking sites, they say – there are so many problems stemming from these platforms.  Check yourself, folks – they are not the problem.  Facebook does not exist so that students can bully others or post nudies, they exist so that people can interact.  The people using these platforms are the reason things go bad – they cause people to  believe these platforms are the problem.  And there not.  That’s why it’s our job – every teacher in every content needs to advocate the importance of Digital Citizenship and responsibility when using technology.  If kids were educated and held accountable (and yes, I know it’s a lot of work-I’m sorry but if you’re a teacher because you thought it’d be easy then you’re clearly mistaken) then this technology could do and will do and has proven-ly (Making up words…) done great things.

If you ban it, students will go underground and use it anyway. So what’s the point? I’ve said this from day one, from day one I tell you.  If you tell someone they can’t do something, technology or not, then they will inevitably be tempted to do it regardless of your wishes.  Umm, especially students! They want to try new things and when they are told not to do something – they are in fact thinking “well there must be a reason I shouldn’t, so therefor I will”.  I, from experience, have learned that giving student some (not all) freedom, allows for less of those problem.  And they learn much better from any mistakes they do make.

Ban all pencils! You’ll poke your eye out. In fact, all arguments against technology could be made against pencils…so banning is ridiculous.  Really – both can do terrible things in the hands of the wrong user but that goes back to the fact that neither are bad on their own…so don’t ban things because you are afraid – learn how to manage them and engage students to use them properly.

Therefor, We need rules about what kids can do, not what kids can’t do. Wouldn’t that be something – to see a teacher have rules on the board but instead of “You may not…”, they said “You can do…”.  It will be my philosophy for next year and I plan to make it thrive.

We’ve always allowed classroom teachers to set their own rules so why stop that practice with technology? Procedures, routines, expectations – they are specific to our own room and while districts and buildings will have policy for technology in place, allow teachers like myself to come up with rules that specifically help technology thrive in my setting, don’t hold us back by making it all the same.

And in the case, make rules that start with, “In my class, you can always use your technology…” Don’t say will or should, but can…because students should know what they are definitely able to do.  This clears up confusion and lets them know you want them to use the technology because that is what it’s there for.

Heck, before you even make the rules think about uses…ask students to make a plan about how they will use tech and their goals in doing so. If you can better prepare your classroom by outline the needs and desires of students, then your rules can cater to those needs and help steer the learning, no the engagement of students.

Now, stop.  You see my stance (fostered by Doug Johnson) on technology in the hands of students.  And if you relate, you can see how opening up your control and handing it over to students can definitely help engage students but before you do anything, remember that technology does not just exist for technology’s sake.

If you do upgrade a current practices with technology, make sure there’s a tangible benefit. Upgrade you current practices with technology to benefit your students’ learning and engagement. I strongly believe that apps do not replace learning.  In fact, there is a nearby 7-8 school that is 1:1.  It’s first year as a 1:1, it talked all about apps but as it goes into their third year, they see that apps are not the answer.  They’re not.  They are tools – great, useful tools that I will continue to share in my adventures as an educator BUT, you must seek out technology to benefit both the learning and the engagement of your students.  And students should still be in control of that technology. As Doug Johnson suggests, buy software that student tells  what to do, not software where the programing makes the decisions.  Kind of like asking students questions that they own and answer versus you already answering.

In order for technology to be successful in our schools, we must embrace it’s presence and let go of the notion that it causes so many problems – because it’s not the problem.  False understanding of responsibility and lack of education regarding Digital Citizenship is the problem.  And if we educate with those in mind, engage with learning as our goal – technology can be a useful tool that helps us get to where we want to be.  I’m not saying to use it 24/7, in fact, I encourage a healthy amount of “unplug time”- I’m saying it’s time to approach it openly and with understanding that it is not the cure-all to teaching…restructuring our teaching strategies is that cure.


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