The biggest problem with integrating technology in class


Teaching | Monday, September 9, 2013

The biggest problem with integrating technology in class

The biggest problem with integrating technology in class

Technology can be flashy and impressive. But we as teachers must keep our focus on solid education.

Technology is flashy. It’s trendy.

iPads. Chromebooks. Smartphones. They make us look good just for using them in class.

We feel like we’re on the cutting edge of innovation.

We feel that way, at least. That cutting edge is where everyone wants to be.

But are we on the cutting edge of education? Are we educating students efficiently and effectively?

Technology can be a catalyst to great things. For example, by utilizing the computers in my classroom:

  • my students can collaborate quickly and efficiently in written form
  • I can do lightning-quick formative assessments to gauge student progress
  • I can grade and enter grades for those assessments faster than I could by hand

But, I’ve found, those computers have limitations. They’re not the end-all be-all of what makes great teaching and great learning in my classroom.

An example: Bell-ringer activities. They’re less efficient on my slow-to-boot-up desktop computers. A quick five-minute exercise can take as much as 15.

This school year, I’ve found Socrative to be a fantastic tool for understanding checks. But it has to be done right.

An exit slip where students summarize and reflect on their learning at the end of the period works wonders. I can download the data into a spreadsheet and quickly analyze the data.

But Socrative isn’t as fast as a show of hands when taking a quick poll. A hands-up poll (no technology needed) gets results faster. Plus, the hands all over the classroom display easy-to-grasp results.

Pedagogy must drive technology.

Good teaching trumps good tools.

It’s the maxim that fuels solid learning.

The problem: that maxim is counter-intuitive to us techies sometimes. 

[RELATED: The value of knowing instead of Googling]

Technology gets the headlines. It gets the students’ attention. The superintendent’s attention. The community’s attention.

Twitter posts by educators teem with the tech tools to try in class. The apps. The websites. The devices.

It’s easy to lose our focus. But focus we must — on our students. On what’s best for them in the long run.

In my 10 years of teaching at a high school, I have come to appreciate and respect the sanctity of the class period.

180 days. 45 minutes at a time. It’s so finite, and it can be so fleeting with interruptions and school assemblies and field trips.

I can’t waste precious time on fancy tools that don’t advance my students’ education. They have to be worth my class time.

So, fellow educator, we must stay judicious. We can’t give in to the glitter, the flash, the shine of tech tools that don’t make our students better people.

I have felt shame for teaching with traditional techniques and without a sophisticated gadget, website or app.

Don’t be ashamed. Efficiency and effectiveness are key.

Our students are key.

Don’t be afraid to integrate technology and innovative teaching ideas, but don’t get lost in the glitter of “the next big thing” in educational technology.

The real “next big thing” is sitting in your classroom ready to learn.

It’s the next generation.

Don’t forsake it for the flash.

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  • Frank Larby says:

    I would agree with you that the teacher student relationship is ultimately the most important driver of student engagement and achievement in the classroom. I would also agree that technology can be used for the wrong reasons. However, for decades educators have been in competition with the distracting elements of our media driven world. How are students gravitate to the flash, the visual representation, and technology driven presentations. As educators we have to connect with our students but we also have to make use of the same tools that can be a distraction to young learners. Properly using technology is one way to bring home the students attention using a medium that they naturally gravitate towards, readily except, and are very willing to use.

  • Cheryl Crockett/Ernie Pyle School says:

    Great article! I so agree with you. Technology can be a great addition to a lesson/activity. Often times, though, my second graders like those traditional techniques that you mentioned. They love using technology but also enjoy good ole face to face interaction.

    • Matt Miller says:

      That “good ole face to face interaction” is so crucial and an important skill we need to help our kids develop! I’m so glad you mentioned that. Students are coming up in a society that interacts digitally so often that it’s easy to get impersonal and lose the ability to create a real relationship. Keep offering your students that personal touch … that’s great! (Bonus points from being almost in my own backyard over at Ernie Pyle!)

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