Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Educational Technology: Don't Fit it In

A bit about Google Earth Rome over at the Digital Education blog. The article highlights some of the recent things teachers have been doing with the app.

Towards the end of the piece, however, there's a question posed:

What are the challenges of fitting these kinds of lessons in?

While I understand where the question comes from, I dare say that this is exactly the wrong approach with regard to educational technology. In fact, if anything, this question is a clear illustration of why so many great teachers are anti-technology.

It's the matter of 'fitting it in'.

If you feel like you have to 'fit tech in' to your classroom practice, then you're quickly going to find yourself frustrated. You might as well be forced to 'fit in' a discussion about orange juice. Or sea lions. Or the Knights Templar. Or be forced to wear mittens while you erase from the chalkboard.

We know you don't want to be told what to do. You are a teacher, after all. Duh.

So tech shouldn't be something to 'fit in'. It shouldn't be the be-all and end-all of what makes a good teacher. Jeez, I mean, there are plenty of crap teachers up to their eyeballs in technology.

In fact, if you feel like you have to 'fit it in', then you are going to produce the equivalent of the same b.s. we nail students for on term papers.

So don't fit it in. Let it happen naturally. Organically. Explore the Web a bit; maybe you'll find something that strikes your fancy. Something that is (please don't tell the professional development planners I said this) ACTUALLY USEFUL.

So, if you are an English teacher, you might want to look through Project Gutenberg -- an enormous compilation of online Classics; if you teach Art, you might find MoMA's website and resources handy. Try writing a blog. It's fun. Sort of like a journal, you know?

But don't waste your time trying to learn how to use something that either you find distracting or unwieldy, or god-forbid something you wouldn't use yourself.

None of us Digital Slackers do.

We only use useful stuff. Mostly stuff we use outside of the classroom as well. Like blogs. And wikis. And social networking and multimedia sites. We're not trying to 'fit' anything in to our classes; rather, our classes just reflect the way we are.

Your class reflects the way you are. It's been that way since Aristotle bored the young Alexander the Great into pranks and foolery.

That's just the way it is. Think about it from the students' perspective: If you are a boring lecturer and you always give boring lectures, Google Earth is not going to make the kids suddenly wake up in your class.

Use what you need. Chances are there is something for you online. On way or the other, may you not fall for the lunacy of 'fitting tech in' any more than you fall for the folly that technology is 'not for you'.


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  2. Sometimes I feel like a crap teacher up to my eyeballs in technology. Then, a couple of students come up to me and say, "Can we write another story in our blog?"

    Middle school boys who want to write a story? Forget that. Middle school students, boys or girls, who want to do something educational? That is what keeps me teaching!

    If it was the technology, great. If it was my incredible teaching, great. If it was the lesson plan that I stole from someone else, great. I think its a bit of all but the technology has made it more exciting.


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