I like technology. I really do. Calculators, computers, tablets, cell phones...facebook, twitter, class websites...I use them all, and I like using them all. They make a lot of what I am able to do in and out of the classroom as a teacher possible. From exploring mathematics to answering questions and giving homework hints to keeping up with former students (not to mention hearing from people I have never met in response to this blog), so much of this simply wouldn't be possible without technology.
And yet, if you were to look around my classroom on any given day, you would often wonder if technology was even present. The kids have their calculators, and every once in a while they'll reach for them. If they need a definition they may reach for their phones and look up the term in question. But most of the time the focus of the in-class discussions is on the concepts and the content, trying to understand the mathematics rather than mindlessly plugging in numbers or relying on calculator-produced graphs.
Which got me thinking this week: with the huge push from seemingly everywhere to incorporate more technology into our lessons, are we using technology for the sake of looking modern, or are we doing so to actually improve the quality of the learning that is happening? As we encourage the kids to make use of the technology, are we also teaching them to discern when the technology is being helpful and when it is actually getting in the way?
And then there is the bigger question: for as connected as we are and with all of the forms of communication we have at our disposal, how are the kids at one-on-one communication? While there are plenty of kids who are fine when it come to having a face-to-face conversation, for others it is a definite weakness. Most of the kids are comfortable having a texting conversation, but when it comes to actually talking with another person the percentage drops drastically. And by encouraging the use of technology (for instance, discussing a reading assignment on a wiki instead of in class), are we inadvertently denying our kids an opportunity to work on and develop a skill they lack?
Just some thoughts from the week as I was sending out homework hints on twitter, looking around my classroom watching the kids have face-to-face conversations with one another every day, reading the self-assessments they submitted online, and wishing former students "happy birthday" on facebook.