Last week, I attended New Teacher Camp at the Boy’s Latin Charter School in Philadelphia. I attended a session called Creating a Great EdTech College Course run by MaryBeth Hertz and Alice Lesnick. There was a really interesting discussion with a bit of a debate about too much emphasis on tools. I was particularly interested in this discussion because I teach a Graduate Technology Course. I am always looking for ways to improve my class, and often wonder if I am getting it right.
My class is very tool heavy. I get the whole pedagogy side, trust me. Here’s my thought. If I have about 35-40 hours total for a technology class, I am going for the tools. Why? If they don’t know about the tools, how can they use them? Many of my students have never used anything other than the Office Suite of products and email. They do not use social media, other than Facebook for personal use. They have never heard of wikis, blogs, Twitter, Google apps, and oh, so, many more. Many have digital cameras, but have never taken the photos from the camera to the computer. Uploading them to a site is a whole new adventure. So, yes, for me it’s really about the tools. I feel that when I immerse my students in an environment where they have to learn to navigate tools and get a bit messy, it helps them get over their fear of breaking the computer. My main goal is to enable them to feel confident enough to tinker on their own and investigate new tools when they are introduced. Of course, as I introduce the tools, they are required to develop lessons or we discuss how to use them to develop critical thinking and collaboration skills. They also read articles and reflect on blog posts on our class ning.
After the session at #ntcamp, I was really questioning if I was helping my students, or if I was doing it all wrong and doing them a disservice. I decided to ask them. We had a discussion about the session at ntcamp about building a great edtech course. Then, I asked them to write a reflection about our class. They had a choice to post it on the ning or hand in a hard copy. I wanted them to have the option, since the ning is more public. The last night of class, I came home with a few hard copies and knew that the others were waiting for me on the ning. I love getting feedback from my students about my classes because it helps me grow as an educator. That being said, I can honestly say I was not ready to read their reflections. I was feeling very anxious, so I decided to leave them for the next day. On my way to bed, I checked my email one last time, and got one of the nicest notes I have ever received from a student:
Thank you for satisfying my thirst for technology (you’ll understand if you read my blog);
Thank you for being one of the two greatest teachers I will ever remember;
Thank you for always believing in me and my potential;
Thank you for treating everyone the same but minding our individual strength, potentials and personalities;
I feel very sad you won’t be teaching us next year;
You are a great teacher and I hope you know that. I hope every student knew/knows how lucky they were/are to have you as a teacher.
Some comments from the reflections:
“Before I took this course….I was intimidated by the thought of just sitting behind a computer and avoided it as much as I could… This technology course has given me the confidence to try things out on the computer…. Maybe someday I will be one of the teachers who will be urging my school to embrace the transformative power of technology!”
“Overall, learning a bunch of news tricks and tools was more beneficial for me. I now have time to go back and play on my own time with the new sites I learned about. So much about teaching involves figuring things out on your own because everybody’s teaching style is unique.”
“I was very scared to take this class. As I have said in previous blogs, I am not a very tech savvy person, and I get very intimidated by technology. This class has opened my eyes to a whole new world of technology. When I go to professional development meetings, they are always saying how we have to get students attention, and use technology in the classroom more often. I always found this a struggle because I didn’t know how to use technology, or understand how it worked in a classroom environment, besides just letting them use a computer to type on and to do research.”
Needless to say, I was happy that my students felt they learned to embrace technology and not be afraid. Through our discussion about #ntcamp, they also learned that it is not just about the tool, but about how the tool is used to enhance student learning. Many times as teachers, we question what we are doing and if we are doing it right, at least I do. And, when we do get it right it is like some secret that must be guarded closely, lest others think we are tooting our own horn. This does feel like that, but I am sharing this because there is so much negative press about teachers. We need to start celebrating our joy-filled moments so others can celebrate them too.
Now, I need your help. I realize there is always room for improvement and I am hoping to make my class better through my choice of articles. This way, I will be able to expose my students to more theory. I am on a mission to find some really good articles about the theory behind using technology. Is it effective? Why do we use it? Maybe you can help me with that?