Random Thoughts

about reading, writing, and anything else that interests me

Things technology can’t do…Or can it?

Believe it or not, I have been keeping up with my reading!  And today, I ran across a post Teacher 2.0 Upgrade – 6 things Technology won’t do for you over at The Teacher Chronicles.  The list of things technology won’t do or can’t do is interesting.  It won’t:

1. Getting to know and seeing the individual

2. Solve conflicts

3.  Test all your students’ skills and knowledge

4. Save bad teaching

5. Deal with parents

6. Replace the personal contact with students

In general, I tend to agree with this list, but I think that the post misses a very important point.  I believe that technology can definitely help with all six of these tasks.  Let’s see how.

How can technology help you get to know and see the individual?  It’s pretty easy, actually.  If a teacher constructs an online community that values each individual, individuals feel free to share parts of themselves with the group.  While this may not be without its difficulties at the K-12 level, I truly believe it is possible. Teachers can construct safe ways for students to interact with each other and a real feeling of community can develop. My students often share parts of themselves online that they would be reluctant to share face to face. If this takes place in a safe environment or if the sharing is not too personal, it can be a great way to learn about others. To do this, though, the teacher has to really pay attention. She has to be involved in the activities and tasks along with the students.

How can it help to solve conflicts? I think the main way technology can help here is by creating that sense of community. Students can start to feel more like part of a group. Also, if the teacher is actively involved on a regular basis with how students interact with each other online, she is in a better position to see what is happening before things get out of hand.

I am afraid that I can’t really come up with a way that technology can help to test all students’ skills and knowledge. But I don’t think anything can really test all our students’ skills and knowledge. For one thing, school doesn’t concern itself with huge areas of student expertise. School doesn’t ever test them. So why should we think technology will?

Technology can’t save bad teaching, but it can make it easier for us to improve our teaching. When I think through a course and how I can include technology in it, I focus on the course and on my teaching in a new and different way. It makes me more reflective about my practice. Does that eliminate bad teaching? No, of course not. But it makes me more aware of what it is I actually do in the classroom, and that makes it more obvious where I need to improve. That, in turn, increases the chances that I will actually make some improvements.

And I think, maybe naively, that technology can help us deal with parents. If I open my classroom up to parents from the beginning of the year though regular emails updates or blogs or wikis or digital stories or almost any other kind or use of technology, I will have set up avenues of communication before problems appear. It won’t eliminate problems, but I think it can make it a whole lot easier to deal with those problems when they arise.

Technology does not replace personal contact with students.  It should, however, enhance contact with students.  Not that we have to be friends on Facebook or follow each other on Twitter, but technology can allow us to interact with students in different venues and in different ways – in places and ways that may be more comfortable for them than the classroom.  When my students blog about non-class topics, I read their posts and respond.  That is how I learned one student had a birthday earlier this month and that he was feeding a kitten that wasn’t allowed in the dorm.  I saw the tremendous photographs taken by a student and was able to talk to him about them both on the blog and face to face.  Technology has really allowed me to have a level of contact with my students that I would probably not have had without it.

I may be naive and I may not understand K-12 education today, but I really think that technology has the potential to help us deal with all these situations if we open ourselves and our classrooms up through the use of technology. Technology is not a panacea, but it can do a lot if we really try to utilize it well.

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