One of the things that I see happen far too often is people stressing over how they are going to create lessons around the new piece of technology they have in their classroom. It is this approach that is causing headaches to many and giving tech tools a bad reputation in the classroom. There is a right way and a wrong way to infusing technology in education.
The wrong way
The absolute wrong way to deal with educational technology is to look at a tool and try to build a lesson around it. I have seen administrators tell teachers to use a specific tool in a specific lesson. This is a recipe for disaster. Some tools do not work for certain lessons. They are not needed and can just cause more confusion than anything else. Tech tools are not easily interchangeable with all lessons in all subject areas. This concept needs to be understood by all stakeholders when it comes to infusing technology into the classroom. The tech comes at the end of the process.
The right way
The right way to deal with educational technology is to not worry about it until after the lesson is planned. Keep the tech tool in the corner of your eye, but do not stress over it. A teacher should create the lesson that will best meet the goals and benchmarks set forth by the state and is engaging to the students in the classroom. Now that the teacher has created this amazing lesson, they should take a look around and see what tech tools they have available to them. Will those tools make this lesson better? More engaging? Will it save the teacher or students time and/or energy if it is used with this lesson? If the answer is no to these questions, then technology is not needed for this lesson. If the answer is yes to one of these, the teacher should look to infuse this technology into their lesson plans.
That’s it. Technology does not belong in every lesson just because there is a tool sitting there. I still have my students sit and write impromptu essays on paper with pen. I have a class set of iPads the students use daily. However, when I ask myself those questions, the answers are “no.” Too many teachers are overwhelmed because they are given a device or are told they will be getting one and think that everything they do must now revolve around this device. I’ve seen this happen with interactive whiteboards and now I’m starting to see it with tablets and laptops. Teachers are amazing not because of the technology they have in their classroom, but because of the lessons they create.
Some of my best lessons were created years ago that did not involve technology in anyway. I take those lessons and slightly tweak them to add elements of technology to make certain aspects a bit smoother. This approach to tweaking great lessons has allowed me to overhaul my lesson plans over time and not feel the stress of needing to overhaul everything over one summer or smaller vacation. I hope administrators and teachers out there will take the time to focus on the lesson and let the technology find its way into the system when it is needed.
Nicholas Provenzano is a high-school English teacher and a technology-curriculum specialist for the Grosse Pointe Public School System in Michigan. He has a master’s degree in educational technology from Central Michigan University and is a regular presenter for the Michigan Association for Computer Users in Learning and ISTE. When he is not writing on his blog or tweeting @TheNerdyTeacher, he is working on an educational e-zine and a free “unconference,” Edcamp Detroit. He also blogs for Edutopia on the value of technology in education.