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September 7, 2009


Technology in schools – are we capturing it for learning or reacting to behaviors?

by Chris Lindholm

Do we allow i-pods in school?  Phones?  Texting?  Emailing?  Facebook?  Twitter?  What about safety issues?  What time, exactly, do we jump on the students who still have headphones on?  How can we allow students to use their electronics if we can't control what they are doing?  If they text another student while in study hall, the student in class receiving the text might be distracted! 

This is a call to end the "how do we control student technology use" debate.  What if we walk around to the other side of the issue and ask questions from another point of view? 

  • How can pod-casting be used to increase student interest in science?
  • Could a class blog create more family participation in answering big, conceptual questions and facilitate student thinking?
  • Maybe a class Twitter site would actually produce a new "note-taking strategy…"  I wonder how we could set this up and encourage positive, academic dialog among JH students??
  • How can we use handheld technology (which nearly all students have now) to overcome the lack of computer labs and student computer stations?
  • What if my class had a facebook account?  Would students become more engaged in the literature I am trying to get them to read?
  • How would students respond to short podcasts on my website and an expectation that they respond to an on-line threaded discussion?
  • If my test requires students to write narrative responses, and a student texts a question on the test to another student while taking the test, do I really need to care?  In the end, did they learn it and did the assessment demonstrate student understanding?
  • If capturing student thinking requires writing, how can I use technology to help me?  Maybe Twitter can be the 21st century "Post-it Note!!"
  • Could social media technology actually create class community?  Maybe students could come to consensus on a few issues tied to my essential questions??
  • Wouldn't it be an awful breach of school rules if a student texted an answer to another student?  Sure both students know the answer then, but… oh, wait…  Well, it'd be like looking up the answer on Wikipedia… oh, wait…  yeah, I know it's more accurate than Encyclopedia Brittanica…  Is the skill of research actually different than it was 10 years ago?  How can social media technologies be used to do research?  How do we teach students to use these resources efficiently, honestly, and accurately?

Next year, instead of this debate, I propose calling in 20 students for an inservice.  First, we'll explain to them all of our ideas about how to control their use of technology.  We'll then have them show us how to circumvent each of our efforts.  Then, if we have enough self-confidence, we will challenge them to show us their ideas for using technology to learn, engage in dialog, and discover.  After all is said and done, a few confident teachers just might post the essential question to tackle and hand their classrooms over to the students…  Who knows what they might come up with to learn and demonstrate mastery…  Maybe it'll be better than what we come up with…  Can we handle that?

Here are a few related, interesting stories:,0,1313238.story


1 Comment Post a comment
  1. AJ Marek
    Oct 8 2009

    Both of my parents recently bought Kindles, and my dad can’t stop talking about his. My mom can’t put hers down long enough to talk about it. They love the ability to tote around an entire library in one little device – much like my excitement about carrying around 1000 CD’s in my iPod – and a thought occurred to me this morning. If we think iPod’s and phones during passing time are a slippery slope that might introduce MORE electronics and technology into our classrooms, what does that say about our willingness to accept things that will promote learning in our students simply because it presents a management challenge?
    Kindles could be a great adaptation for Special Ed students. They could do wonders for kids who can’t keep hauling three textbooks to and from school every night. And one Kindle account can be used for up to five Kindles – or iPods, iPhones, or other devices that have the Kindle app. Beyond that, our students are more used to reading on a screen than in a book. Kindle provides an interesting mix; electronic format and navigation without the eye strain of reading from a computer screen.
    I certainly don’t have all the answers, but when I think about how beneficial this is for my parents (and me, via my iPod touch), and I think about how many ways this could be applied to benefit kids, I wonder if we’re doing our kids a disservice with our fear of the slippery slope into the world of electronics.


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