Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Meaningful Technology

There is a lot of focus on instructors who "incorporate meaningful technology" into their instruction. I was thinking of this as I read this devil's advocate article about the case against laptops in the classroom.
I stopped to reconsider what makes technology "meaningful" in my writing classes?
I think it would have to allow my students to reach certain class goals and expectations in a relevant way and get them excited about reaching those goals. For example, the reason I assign my students to share their e-portfolio with a mock employer is to allow them to write for a genuine audience, something I believe will make them more motivated writers.
I was relieved to read Peter Pappas' statement about using the "least amount of technology" in the classroom.
Wait. What?
"least amount of technology"?
I'm not relieved because that means less learning, researching, experimenting for me. I was relieved because so much of the technology seems forced. I have seen instructors try to force many technology components into every nook and cranny of their instruction because it was shiny, new and "cutting edge" but not necessarily what was best for the students. As Pappas explains:

"I think that the transformative part of technology is getting it in the hands of the students so that they can research and create and produce in ways you couldn't do without it. For me, those are the essential elements that I'm looking at, not simply just something that's a bright shiny object."

I remember my first year teaching at a middle school where "thematic units" were all the rage. When "weather" was assigned for 6 weeks, sighs and groans filled the room of our team meeting. The math teacher joked that she was simply going to copy and paste math problems into images of raindrops on a handout... "Done!"
It's funny, but her style reminds me of how I can try to implement technological tools that don't necessarily help students reach the course goals in a meaningful way. The tech tools are about as useful to instruction as the raindrops around those math equations; what technology basically becomes is novelty.  It's convoluted and awkward and seems to only frustrate students.
Reflecting on these ideas, I am trying to only incorporate no more than 5 technology tools into my courses this semester.
ISTE's website posted a great article by Liz Kolb recently; the piece contained  a list of reflective measurements that I use to help me sift through the fluff when considering if a tech tool will be right for my courses.
Right now, my focus seems to be on incorporating technology that will connect my students to a real audience for long-term writing projects.

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