Saturday, December 5, 2009

Using Technology With The Students: Your Thoughts?

It was great to sit down and talk to all of you during the Parent/Teacher Interview Process, and in many cases, we had the opportunity to talk about the use of technology in the classroom. While many of you are thrilled that the children have so many opportunities to use various technological tools (i.e., Twitter, blogs, Bitstrips, Diigo, VoiceThread, Google Docs, and numerous other websites), some concerns were expressed about if the students have enough time to write using a pencil and paper.

Here are my thoughts on this subject:

For every time the students write on the computer, there is an equal opportunity for them to write using a pencil and paper. In many cases, students are also given the chance to decide if they want to use a computer or use a pencil and paper. As an adult, I know that I spend more time on my laptop than I do with a pen in my hand. Most times, I need to borrow a pen for the few times that I do need one. We live in a technological world, and I feel that it is my responsibility to help prepare the students for this world. That being said, the curriculum expectations always drive my instruction, and technology is just one of the tools to help deliver these expectations.

With writing being our current school focus, here is the link to an article that I found through Twitter that provides statistics that children who use technology are better writers. If you can, please take the time to read this article and comment here to let me know what you think. All points of view are welcome, as it is through sharing that we learn more.

Have a great weekend!


Lucy El Sherif said...

I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot since reading the question last week. Thus far I’ve seen it used as another way of expressing their language, as a way connect with different parts of the world, and broaden their horizons. They use it for learning and creating. So far so good. I do worry, however, about:
-Reducing their opportunities to practice writing, and the automization that is necessary to later think about topics while writing without thinking about their writing.
-Quite often with media, the language used is less rich, and more fragmented than language and sentences used in learning.
-The “Sesame Street Syndrome” as explained in the book Endangered Minds, by Jane Healy, where kids are so used to letters dancing and singing, paying attention to books and learning in a less entertaining way becomes harder. Part of the benefit of reading enjoyable books to children is engaging their mental effort muscles unbeknownst to them. Passive media learning does the exact opposite of that.
I read the BBC article but the study made no mention of socioeconomic factors being a possible factor in the disparity between those who use technology vs those who don’t. That would be my first guess.
I believe that they are a great tool that is only as good as the teacher who is using them, in this case, an exceptional teacher. I do realize that we live in a world that is vastly different from the one we grew up in. But I would be very wary if technology was touted as beneficial in and of its own sake.
Interesting read:

Aviva said...

Thanks for your comment! I have actually spent a lot of time tonight discussing this very topic.

As you know, I believe very strongly in the use of technology in the classroom, but I also believe in the importance of modelling how to use these tools well. While most social media tools do tend to result in more informal written responses, I emphasize the importance of conventions when using these tools. I think that most of my students learned how to start their sentences with a capital letter and leave spaces in between their words thanks to Twitter. This does go back to the importance of modelling though.

As for the article, it's based on how students feel about writing and not necessarily on their skills in writing. I wish that there was research to prove if technology plays a factor in skill development, but so far, I have not been able to find this research. That being said, I do believe that social media tools encourage students to want to write more because they are writing for a larger audience. If I have students write me a journal entry, they are just writing for me, but if I have them write me a blog post, they could be writing for hundreds of readers. This is a big difference.

Even though we live in a technological world, the use of technology in schools in many ways is just beginning to develop. In most cases, it seems to be older students that use these tools more. I am always so excited when I see what my Grade 1's can do with the use of these tools, but they are still "tools," and it is the expectations that continue to drive my teaching practices.

I am looking forward to checking out the article that you mentioned. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts! For others out there, please let me know what you think too.