First some blessings…
I have fallen in love with technology. It allows my students to connect to each other and like-minded people. It’s exciting to “meet” and “talk” to someone who shares your passions, your experiences. My students have connected with other students: blogging, commenting, questioning, sharing. They started with @ErinVarley ‘s class on the other side of the country. They blog and respond to our shared read aloud, Wonder, a precursor to our Global Read Aloud, Out of My Mind. They notice their similarities and ask questions. They comment on personal narratives with “I like your story” and “thank you.” This has been such a blessing finding students and teachers who are “just like me!” You share my name… I think so too… I like your writing… thank you… that’s a good idea, here’s mine… me too. Community — what we all seek.
I have found like-minded thinkers, resources, opportunities by the boat load through technology. I thought I was alone, little did I know the world was bursting with these ideas and people, just waiting for me, all I needed to do was “click” and jump in. There they were, these people boldly sharing ideas and opportunities.
Truthfully it is an addiction. You get a jolt of energy reading blogs and tweets by ubercool, uberpositive, uberconnected educators like @MattBGomez, @PernilleRipp, @Katsok, @PaulSolarz (the list goes on and on). I have grown, I can’t say how many fold, since making this tool a part of my teaching life. I eagerly awaited the blogs that came out of the Close Reading Blog-a-Thon instigated by Christopher Lehman and Kate Roberts. Vicki Vinton’s blog is always filled with meat and potatoes thinking for reading teachers, but served up like a dessert. Then there are the many contributors to Two Writing Teachers and Nerdy Book Club showcasing tremendous thinking and writing of passionate teachers of writing and reading (love those people). Shannon Clark and her blog-a-day challenge that included thoughts and examples from her 6th graders was inspirational. And at the end of the day, I wonder when do these people sleep?
The curse of technology… unforeseen problems
Technology is a tool, a powerful one. One that we gladly welcome into our world. Integrating it fully. We rush to our computer, our phone, our iPad, to connect, to learn. How could we live, teach, learn without it? When something doesn’t work or something isn’t completely thought out, then we have to live with the consequences of this dependence. On a personal level, I had a life-altering technological catastrophe: I lost all my data on my iPhone. It is now a grey, lifeless, machine. Its personality, dare I say soul, that was developed over years, is gone. Why? Long story, I could and did point fingers and raged. I’m still grieving the loss, but the bottom line, the reason it happened was because I didn’t think something out completely. I moved too fast and made a big mistake.
This leads me to another concern/potential problem of technology: loss of control. One student in my classroom has, shockingly, not followed the guidelines for iPad usage. Nothing horrible, but clearly not being productive, just playing. Of course others ratted him out. Later, one student came up to me and asked, “Would you like me to help you with the iPads, Mrs. Harmatz? I know how you can stop kids from messing with things.” This made me think of what Cornelius Minor (I’m paraphrasing here) cited as one of the tools every connected educator needs: someone under the age of 14. Yep! Got the iPad, all those apps, but I forgot the kid! I gratefully accepted this student’s help and learned from him.
The experience in my classroom was minor. But scale that up to the high school level and you get what happened in my school district and other districts, high schoolers getting past the firewalls on their district-purchased iPads. Gasp! Shocking? Not really, I’m actually kinda proud of them. Now I applaud my district for venturing into technology. And I hope this won’t sideline the move to connect our students and equalize the opportunity for learning with 21st century resources. What I wonder about is this: Did they ask any students to give input into the development, adoption, and roll out of the technology? Perhaps they did, but if they didn’t maybe they should consider bringing the most important “stakeholders” into the conversation — the kids.
I learned from my mistake and I’m getting help from my students. We still have the technology, and the blessings that go with it. MIstakes happen the trick is learning from them. I will be more thoughtful. We will work through the bumps and learn to overcome them, to lessen the curse and grow the benefits from the many blessings associated with technology.
We could all learn a thing or two from out students. With all the bright, shinny, exciting technology, don’t forget the other “must have” tool: someone under 14.
- Students finds ways to thwart school iPad security (miamiherald.com)
- Students hack into school-issued iPads and start accessing not-educational programs and websites within a week [Obvious] (fark.com)
- iPadifying the Writing Workshop – Part 1 (mguhlin.org)
- The Electronic learning space (s00102573.wordpress.com)