Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Right Technology in the Right Place, Right Time

I have put a lot of thought into why I still use Grandpa Young's old riding mower to mow my lawn. I could very easily upgrade to a new mower that is more efficient, cutting a better swath and in much less time. Most of the attachment to that old mower is nostalgia - it has sentimental value: I think of Grandpa and the good times while I mow. It makes me feel comfortable.

When I think back on some of my best lessons in my classroom, I consider the tools that I had available to facilitate those lessons. I fondly remember feeling cutting edge while I used a dry erase marker directly on an overhead projector for grammar lessons. I also enjoy thinking back on the audio clips from cassette tapes that were played during English class to make Shakespeare easier to understand.

I also recognize that those old, nostalgic tools have their place in the past, but new tools have come along that do a better job of improving student learning and understanding.

While we didn't used to have very many tools available to us in the past, we do have a wealth of tools to choose from today. We have so many tools available that sometimes it gets overwhelming about which tool to use for a group of students at a particular moment.

In choosing the right tool for the task, consider the following:
  1. Your objectives for your lesson are the focal point.
  2. The end product(s) that students create should demonstrate proficiency in those objectives.
  3. Are there multiple means of demonstrating proficiency in the objectives? (differentiated instruction/assessment)
  4. Technology is a tool that A) makes it easier for the teacher to teach the lesson, B) improves learning and understanding for the student, and (C) makes it easier for the student to demonstrate proficiency in the learning objectives.
  5. Don't use a technology tool just because it is the latest fad - make sure it fulfills #4. If not, find the right tool.
  6. Feedback should be consistent and productive throughout each step of the lesson. (formative assessments)
  7. The pedagogy used to create the lesson and its assessments should allow for a meaningful experience for the students.

One of our greatest Pleasant Plains toolkits is our Google Apps for Education, which provide multiple means for students and teachers to collaborate, create, and produce their ideas. The summer professional development training sessions for Pleasant Plains CUSD8 have been designed around the pedagogy for 21st Century learning as well as integration of technology to facilitate that learning.

Grandpa's old lawn mower has its place in my heart and home, but new tools for a new generation are a necessity for education. Better tools are out there to help better prepare this generation of students. We'll find them together and share our successes and setbacks with each other along the way.

Share your successful lessons and the technology tools that you integrated to facilitate the lessons in the comments.