My general approach to new technology tools has been to use my own class as guinea pigs to establish the ‘workability’ of a new tool in the classroom, at which point I will establish what practical use it might have in the classroom, and then share it with other staff. The discovery and testing happens a lot, but not so much the sharing.
Something exciting has happened, though. In my (relatively new)role as an IT coordinator, I have just realised my first successful sharing of a new technology. Let me share the anecdote:
I introduced blogging to my staff at the beginning of the term during a staff day workshop. Several class and specialist teachers were keen to get involved with this tool. While helping one of the Year 4 teachers set up the blogs, I noticed that she was looking for a ‘post and comment’ solution, where she would ask a question, and all the students would answer, which did not smoothly fit into the ‘blogging method.’
I suggested Edmodo, a made-for-classroom social networking tool which is even designed to look like Facebook. Edmodo would allow her to have students respond to her posts without all the ‘extra admin’ that setting up blogs for 23 kids would require. She introduced Edmodo to her girls and it was a resounding success, with the girls responding to her questions enthusiastically. We reflected after the fact that if she had used blogging with this activity, that it would not have been as efficient, as the more complex process of setting up the blogs would have interfered with the task itself.
With further reflection, I have realised that technology use in the classroom, while being valuable in its own right needs to be managed in terms of using the right tool for the job. A common complaint from ‘non-IT’ teachers is that when an integrator introduces something new, everyone in the school takes it on and there is no sequential development throughout the year levels. We need to move everyone away from the viewpoint that a particular tool, be it a program, a web app, a piece of hardware or whatever, should not be introduced to a whole school at once, but be staggered, so that older students ‘get something new.’ Rather, new tools should be universally rolled out and it is then up to the integrator, in conjunction with the class teachers to apply that tool in the most appropriate way to different year levels.
I guess what I am getting at with this post is that we should make sure we ‘choose the right tool for the job’ and not just use technology for the sake of it. True, technology use has its own intrinsic value, but using the wrong technology may both a) make the task at hand harder to achieve, which will cause b) students to get frustrated or intimidated by technology, leading to disengagement. Neither of these outcomes are desirable.