Guest Article written for Always Prepped. “Technology as an Educational Tool” can also be found on their blog under Guest Posts, which I strongly encourage you to check out! Thank you very much for this opportunity!
Since starting in the Education program at the University of Lethbridge, I have realized that technology integration can enhance learning or suck it into a deep black hole. We need to ask ourselves,
“Why are we using the technology? Is it serving as a way to make learning ‘fun’ or is it actually promoting learning?”
If you have to “ummm and ahhh…” while you scratch your head or your chin to answer the first question, you’re likely using technology incorrectly. If the point of technology is to excite students about learning and make learning fun, again you’re probably using it ineffectively.
I have a professor who says, “Learning is not meant to be fun. Learning should be engaging and make students critically reflect”. I’m sure your first instinct is to disagree with the declaration that learning is not meant to be fun. But when you decompose and critically reflect on what he is saying, it actually makes a lot of sense. I agree that when you focus on how to make your lesson fun you are more likely to lose the meaning of the intended learning. When planning lessons, teachers should critically analyze the ways they can engage students in their learning, so that they find the fun themselves. In this way, education is inherently fun; you do not need to lose focus on learning, which is where it should be.
We have entered a tech-savvy age, where it is likely that some of our students actually know more than we do, and this is okay! As teachers, we need to embrace our student’s prior knowledge and use this to our advantage. If our students can teach their peers or us about the latest and greatest in technology, then we should welcome that! After all, it is our job to figure out a way that we can effectively integrate this into our teaching and to promote student learning.
Technology integration is no longer an option for teachers, as it once was, it is compulsory in all grades and subjects. The use of technology in daily tasks is second nature to our students, whereas its absence is foreign, resulting in the need for educators to channel this passion into their learning. Integrating simple tools like Polleverywhere into lessons allows teachers to formatively assess student learning with ease. Where students are usually restricted from cell phone use in class, this integration of technology turns what is otherwise a distracting device into a tool for learning.
SMART boards are also great for integrating technology into lessons! Now standard in many classrooms, SMART boards can escalate student involvement in your lessons exponentially. Students are able to write on the board, move shapes and answer questions; the possibilities are endless! ‘Smart Exchange’ is a database where you can access other teachers Smart Lessons, download them to your computer and use them immediately, or modify them to fit your personality and teaching style. This is a great way to introduce yourself to this technology, while not having to make everything for your lesson from scratch. Technology has made collaboration among professionals seamlessly easy.
Twitter is another tool that could be pivotal to your classroom! Students can interact with experts in their field of interest. Hashtags are used in Twitter as a way to stream chats, you can join the conversations already established or create your own classroom streams and invite professionals to take part in themed discussions chosen by students (a great example of this is #scistuchat). Using Twitter can make learning extremely authentic. As educators we need to provide authentic learning for our students, so that they find meaning and build connections to their life and the world around them. Twitter can be one of the ways to bring this authenticity to the classroom.
Always remember it may seem easy to get lost in the wonders that technology brings to our classroom, our job as teachers is to educate students. We need to use technology to engage students, promote learning and guide our students towards the wonderment that is self-actualization. To allow students to pass through the system without requiring them to critically think, analyze and reflect would be sinful on our part. There is always a way to maintain the integrity and authenticity in teaching and learning, while integrating technology. Never ever lose sight of that.
Until next time,