Saturday 16 August 2014

Using Technology in Learning

Steve Jobs saw technology as an extension of the "person".  With this platform of understanding, he realized that people needed forms of technology that were easy to use, that made people want to feel, laugh, smile, create memories and capture it.  Technology in other words, would allow people to see and experience the world differently, not to lose the experience, but to enhance it. This, from its root, is what technology should be in learning: the enhancement of the learning experience.  But many teachers including myself may not be enhancing our students education by integrating technology in its most effective ways.  This has really made me have to consider how and in what ways I use technology in the classroom.  The evaluating question I now find myself pondering is "Are the ways I integrate technology in the classroom enhancing my students learning, the self, and their experience in education?

There is a lot of discussion about using technology in classrooms because it  somewhat meets our students digital language, and more importantly, it will be an integral part of their lives in the future.  Many students walk into my Information Technology class already far more advanced than most of the educators in the school.  So then lies the question, if many of my students are more knowledgeable in areas of technology than their teachers, what are we really teaching them about technology?  Many of my projects restricted the technology and  its use primarily for  presentations (Powerpoint, Prezi, Popplet, Imovie, Keynote), Portfolio's (Weebly, Freshgrade, Wix, Evernote, Schoology), for retrieving information (google, yahoo, etc, blogs) and for files,sharing and communication (email, Edmodo).  I might introduce my students to all these different tools, and it might be new to them at the time, but I do not believe I am truly inspiring change or enhancing their educational process by introducing them to these tools so that they are better students.  My students can easily manipulate technology, because that is what these software companies do.  They would not create software that are too intricate for our lives because most of us would never use them. Now if my students' manipulation of these tools are that easy, are they really learning from them. If the software is easy to use (basic) then we as consumers will continue to use that software that we have become accustomed to thus closing our horizons to different opportunities.

Now, I have to admit, I do not feel like I am inspiring students with they way I ask them to use technology in the classroom.  Sometimes they want to make Apps or other times they may want to create music, but most of the time they are using the technology in a dull and somewhat monotonous way that I have prescribed for them.  Beyond this, many teachers believe they are doing a good job with integrating technology in the classroom because they use overhead projectors and presentation software.  Even though this may be a start, powerpoint presentations are not overly inspiring.  When I listen to lectures or lessons, what becomes inspiring is the person who teaches it.  I see myself as a very passionate, interactive and engaging lecturer but I find that even though my students love using computers, they don't seem to be inspired to change the world with computers.

One inspiring way I have seen technology enhance student learning was watching a student in our Learning Skills class use Dragon Naturally Speaking to write papers and learn how to read and write at the same time.  But the most inspiring use of technology I saw was during my teacher education program.  We visited a school that had a young girl who had learning and physical exceptionalities.  She had a computer connected to here wheelchair and through the use of technology she was able to share her thoughts, ideas, and understandings that allowed her to communicate with her classmates.  The technology definitely enhanced her learning experience but it also inspired me and everyone around her to realize that she was not different from us.  She made jokes, she was quick in her replies to questions and her human capacity was endless.  Reflecting on that situation and my teaching practice, for the next school year I have decided that:

- If I am going to use technology, it will have be in a meaningful way besides homework, essays and class projects.
-  The use of technology will only take place when we are doing something to inspire or change how we view life and its experience.
- I will use classroom websites, and blogs to give them access to classroom material.
- If they are going to integrate technology in their work, it will have to be in a meaningful way, not just as a presentation or to take notes.  Eg. Skype with guest speakers and other students from around the world.
- Teach them that technology does not only change the way we access and interpret knowledge, but it changes where we can learn as well.
- Take them on field trips to inspire them to show how technology affects all facets and areas of society.
- Teach them Digital citizenship is the most important thing when using technology and the internet.

The funny thing about teaching students about technology is that most of the tools we use now will be upgraded, changed or become obsolete over time.  So the most important thing we can teach our students  is technology is an extension of who they are, but their capabilities are endless because of the human capacity to create. 

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