"We are living a public life on a global stage, the ones who can express themselves best, will be heard." -Laura Hill Timpanaro, Artist, Author, Educator

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Technology In The Classroom.

by Laura Hill

Recently I was asked to speak about the use of technology in the classroom. The audience, a group of educators; some who had integrated tech into their class, others who wanted to and many who were still skeptical of the value it would add.  As I reflected on the message I wanted to share my thoughts turned towards the students, children like my daughters who would be the first digital natives to graduate and enter the workforce. What skills would I want then to have mastered? Which ones would they need and which would fall short? What part of their education would gain the most value by focusing on technology in the classroom?

I was somewhat surprised to realize I didn’t know. Sure, I recognize the value of robotics and coding as new economy skills and have enriched my children with opportunities to develop these skills.  I also see the advantages that a global classroom adds.  My youngest has jumped into several of my international chats, done assignments and interacted with educators in other countries via Google hangouts.  Still this didn’t answer the question for me, what do they need in class? After much reflection, here are my thoughts.

Technology is a tool that right now has a lot of sizzle. It’s exciting to imaging the possibilities it adds to teaching methods, student engagement and voice. However, once you get by the sizzle, it is easy to find yourself lost in a sea of apps, programs and subscription businesses models.  I think the first step in using technology is to decide the purpose that would best suit your class, your teaching team or school community and the greater community the school is part of.  Ask yourself these questions:

What am I hoping to accomplish by integrating technology?

Do the skills used in the technologies I am choosing serve the students beyond this application?

What are student benefits beyond mastering this technology?

I asked myself these questions and came up with the following:

Global Classrooms
The benefit of establishing a global classroom that allows students to interact with their local community as well as peers and teachers from around the world received high marks. In a global society that will value the voice of those who know how to make themselves heard we are doing a disservice to students if we do not teach them how to interact with others to solve problems, share ideas and get feedback.  The beauty of theses technologies, including Skype and Google hangouts, is they are easy to engage and feel natural in use.  Google also provides the wider opportunity of sharing portfolios, videos, pictures and shared documents on a common platform to further enhance the experience.

Coding, Creation and Robotics
In creation, the building process has changed and now products are being created directly by the idea generators without going through the process of idea->investment->manufacturing.  Crowd sourcing funds, personal creation and push button distribution to a wide audience of millions allows anyone with a great idea to get it into the world.  These basic building blocks allow students to be thought leaders, inventors, creators and need to be part of the learning process. 

Social Media
Creating an internal or external account in which students can interact with peers and teachers 24/7 is crucial and mimics the way adults are using these platforms to work together.  Students who are able to use learning networks to increase their skills, get feedback and support for their ideas will be much more successful when they leave the classroom.

It won’t be long before the students you are teaching enter the workforce and change the nature of technology use simply by being part of the education industry.

It has always been my prediction that we have less than ten years before this time comes.  This notion was cemented two days ago when I spoke to an undergrad student who was commenting on an amazing social studies program his high school instructor had run. She had charged the class with using a Simms creation model to build a city.  Every detail needed to be explained and used to solve one of the city’s many problems including energy resources, layout, domestic areas and profitability of industry and downtown areas.  It was evident from this young scholar’s enthusiasm that he would implement this type of teaching method when he got his degree.
You have the chance now to decided how to use technology to better your students and your scholastic community. Don’t let your classroom be one that creates a generation of “lost” students who lack the skills leaving your charge to compete and lead in the workforce that is developing now.  I know it may seem daunting, but the support is there. You no longer have to be the expert, just open the door and see where technology leads you.

-Laura Hill

Laura Hill is the co-creator of #whatisschool, a highly acclaimed international twitter chat that creates a forum for educators to examine and re-imagine the changing role of education. She is an author who writes the Great Story World Mix-Up chapter book series with her own children and speaks to students about how they can play a role in the new economy by getting their ideas out of their heads and into the world.  


Read the books I write with my children.