Tech Be Nimble
I recently came across a fascinating post via NPR about game-based learning. This is definitely one of those holy grail ideas in ed tech. "If we turn the learning into a game, they won't even realize they're learning!"
I think the reality is probably slightly more complex. Like anything in education (or life), there is no silver bullet. There's no avoiding the "art" of teaching, no matter what science we apply to the profession. Game-based learning is just another tool in the toolbox for today's classrooms. Sometimes, it's a great approach to introducing a complex topic--in the linked article, examples include creative writing, indigenous peoples, and WWI. Other times, it's like what many of us remember about playing Oregon Trail in the middle school computer lab: a lot of fun, but no lasting impact. For me, it always comes back to making mindful decisions about how and why you incorporate technology into the curriculum.
A friend shared a great post with me from Craig Kemp's blog that I'll be incorporating into a guest lecture for pre-service teachers next week. Here's what Kemp identifies as the top mistakes teachers make when it comes to integrating technology into the curriculum:
1. They put the technology before the teaching.
2. They treat the technology as a toy rather than a tool for learning.
3. They use technology simply to fill time.
4. They don't use the technology that's available to them. (I'm looking at you, SmartBoard-used-as-dry-erase-board.)
This is not to say there's never a time to use technology just for the sake of using technology. For example, if you're teaching in one of the many schools introducing 1:1 tablet initiatives, you do need to allow time for students to get to know the technology--this means putting the tech before the teaching, using tech as a toy, and using tech as a time filler. But eventually, you need to move on and use the technology as a way to enhance and individualize learning.
I would add a mistake to Kemp's list, and it's the main one I've seen novice and veteran teachers alike make in the classroom:
5. They put fear ahead of curiosity.
The best way to avoid all of the mistakes on Kemp's list is to be curious about what tech tools can do for your students. Sometimes the answer will be "Nothing," and that's perfectly fine. Sometimes pen and paper really are better than a tablet (maybe even many times...). The point is, to make a smart decision, teachers need to approach technology integration as an inquiry process. Ask the right questions:
When we replace fear of what we don't know with curiosity about how we can help our students learn and stay engaged with the content, great things happen in the classroom.
Needs change. Technology changes. The best educational technology stays nimble.