Is Technology in the Classroom a Square Peg for a Round Hole?
Now that my youngest child is off to college I decided it was time for me to do something for myself, so I found a program at George Mason, enrolled, and am now on my way to achieving a Master’s in Education (specifically Technology in Education). I have been at my current school for 20 years and involved with technology for the past 15. Like most in the educational field, I have seen a lot of changes and a lot of teachers who simply didn’t want to change. I was always under the impression, the reason they didn’t want to change was because they just “didn’t get it”. Perhaps for some that may be true, but I now believe for most it’s not that they “don’t get it”; they are simply overwhelmed and have no direction.
There is such a misconception in education when it comes to technology. I have asked both students and teachers what comes to mind first when I say the word “technology” and their automatic response is always “computers”. If I ask them what they think when I say “learning with technology” they respond, “computers in the classroom”. Try it; you may be surprised with your findings. To me, this is wherein the problem lies.
Technology is NOT about computers in the classroom, it’s about opening up a channel to the world so we can better communicate with it and it can better communicate with us. Teachers are being told they have to incorporate technology in their classrooms but aside from being handed a laptop and being told to “have at it” they aren’t being given the tools they need to effectively use it. It’s no wonder so many of them seem to appear not to “get it”.
Those that do “get it” are way ahead of the curve. Perhaps they attended a conference session that inspired them, or they attended a class that drove home how to teach with technology in their classroom, or they are one of the lucky few who were born with it engrained in their psyche. For those teachers who do not fall into any of the above categories it becomes a daily struggle to do what is being asked of them.
Before I began this program, I was certain I was one of those people who “got it”, but I have since learned I really didn’t. I was of the same mindset as my students and fellow teachers; technology was all about the physical. I didn’t give a whole lot of thought to the “mental” side of technology. I just assumed if I sat my kids in a classroom with a laptop and showed them a few slides, sent them on a search of the Internet and lectured them a bit, I did my job. Sure, that put the information out there, but did they really learn anything?
It has taken the better part of the semester, but I have restructured a good portion of my curriculum by exploring fun and exciting ways to incorporate different types of software in the learning process. I haven’t completely eliminated slides and lectures, but my kids are taking a much more active, hands-on, approach to learning and they seem to be really happy with the changes. Only time will tell if these changes are effective, but so far so good. One thing is for sure. I believe if teachers are given the right tools, technology in the classroom is not a square peg for a round hole. The key to learning with technology is making sure technology fits the assignment and the assignment fits the technology.
Robin Peralta is the Laptop Program Director at Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Virginaby