Today I had to really think about why we integrate technology so well into our program at our school as I had a visitor who came to observe and ask questions. He was impressed by the fluidity of the technology use in all the classrooms. He was impressed with the level of engagement of the students. We talked about how using chrome books or ipads was not an event at our school but just part of how we do school. How did that happen he wondered? I think there aremany of reasons but the main one is pedagogy. In all things about teaching, all the pieces have to complement each other: teaching style, resources, assessment, classroom management and technology. One of the questions that our visitor asked was how did the teachers feel about giving up the computer lab two and half years ago? My response was that by the time we started to think about doing so, the way we taught had changed so that a computer lab really didn’t mesh with how we were teaching.
In a traditional classroom environment, the teacher had all the control: all the students did the same assignment at the same time with the same due date; all the students created the same art project; all the students read the same book finishing at the same time. And, all the students used the computer lab for the same purpose at the same time. This gave the teacher a sense of control, and comfort.
As we move toward more student voice and choice, toward a more workshop environment, we find that kids are working on different assignments, at different times. They are reading different books at different speeds. They are writing different genres and on different topics. They may be working on an Ipad, on a chrome book or laptop, on their own phone or in a workbook. Some students may be using voice to text software. Some students may have the google document translated to a different language or different reading level. Students may be working individually or in groups. A traditional teacher, thinking about this might think it sounds like chaos. But it is not.
The trick to teaching is not in control but in intentionality. When you, as the teacher, know exactly what you want your students to be able to know and do then it is easier to allow them to arrive at that learning goal in a multitude of ways. Your intentionality will lead the way. It is important to realize, though, that student voice and choice is not the same as “anything goes”. If you intentionally want students to be able to write a well-crafted and organized paper they may be able to choose the length, the topic and the format. But, a diorama will not meet your learning goal.
Our fluid use of technology in our classrooms is not because we are tech-savvy (although many of us have become so). It is because our pedagogy allows for fluidity. We are intentional in what we want students to be able to know and do and we create an environment in which technology supports those goals. Had we tried to implement this degree of technology into a traditional teaching practice it would not have worked. It is not about the technology. Technology is not a thing. It is all about the intentional learning and teaching in the classroom.