No Free Lunch

I was responding to a post on Mr. Keenan’s blog “Adventures in Teaching and Learning” about the effective use of iPods in the classroom when it hit me. There is no free lunch. Tools that result in gains in learning require increased effort on the part of the teacher. No exceptions.

Technology is a GREAT tool. It flattens the world. It opens doors for students- sometimes ones that we wish would stay closed. But it is what it is, and we  aren’t going backwards.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/8271124@N03/497374910Technology doesn’t replace supervision. I flashback to 9th grade social studies. Every Friday afternoon we sat in 5 rows of 5 and watched filmstrips while our teacher (who was also the football coach) prepped for the next day’s game. We had little direction other than “watch the filmstrip.” As you can imagine, my attention was captured by the quarterback in back of me rather than the filmstrip in front of me.

The coach never left his desk and paid us little attention. We returned the favor. Notes were passed, we did other homework, and all I can tell you about the filmstrip is that it was about Africa. I think.

My point here is that teaching with technology is ACTIVE teaching. It requires that we get up, walk around, and engage with our students. It’s less about “knowing what they are doing” and more about finding out what they are thinking. My students teach me a lot on those walkarounds.

The off task student often has something to teach you as well. Ask they why they are off task- they are, most likely, either confused or bored or both. Feeling them out helps you in two ways. It lets you know how you can clarify either your objectives or your directions. It also makes you look at the relevancy of what you are asking your students to do. Admittedly, sometimes kids just don’t want to do the work; but I’ll stick my neck out here. When you take the time to ask a student what they think, they think. You get some credibility when you show that what they say has value to you.

Not much has changed. It’s important to have a purpose to the technology that you use in class- and it can’t be so that you, as teacher, can disengage from your classroom. If anything, it requires more diligence on your part than the worksheet requires. When well done, the payoff is worth the effort.

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6 responses to “No Free Lunch

  1. I agree. Technology does require more work and diligence. It also takes a certain type of teacher. You could’ve put all kinds of tech in front of that football coach and he probably would’ve still made out plans for the next game. It’s sad that there are teachers still today like that in our classrooms. Some will just never change. In my new position this year, I’ve been faced with that more than ever. I’ve decided though that I just have to focus on the ones that can and will and hope the others eventually come around.

  2. I must have had the clone of your football coach teacher when I was in 11th grade. We were supposed to complete packets and watched filmstrips, too. I don’t remember any actual teaching going on and we got extra credit points for knowing the scores on Monday.

    But I really like what you said about learning from off task students. Too often we place the responsibilty on students to stay on task without finding out why they’re not and making adjustments accordingly.

  3. 100% agree. For every new tool I introduce into the classroom, I understand that I’m going to have to come up with ways to monitor the student use. Using new tech doesn’t always make the teacher’s job easier as many non-educators think. It changes our job and provides great opportunities to students.

  4. Great post! I think we’ve all had “that” teacher at some point. You are 100% correct. I know that the classes that I enjoyed the most and retained the most from all had teachers who were very involved and interactive with the class.

  5. So true! I had several teachers like this growing up and have seen current teachers use technology in this way. I would take it a step further and say that ALL teaching that is meaningful is also active, including when technology is used.
    Well spoken!

  6. I agree with you very much – good teachers are active. Using tech doesn’t mean sitting back and letting a machine take over. The best teachers are usually the ones who are never at their desks. Nice post.

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