Monday, February 7, 2011

too much technology?

RANTING AHEAD, avoid if you're looking for useful info.  I said before this is a bit of a diary, so here is a post I wrote back in December but never posted.  Today I'm a little cranky so I'm not as positive as I usually try to be!

I read an article yesterday about parents fighting the increased use of technology in the schools.  I have a co-worker who believes that kids are entertained too much and chooses to eschew the use of technology in her classroom for the most part.

I obviously feel differently both as a parent and teacher.  I have no idea how to use an abacus and feel that a calculator is a better way to compute numbers (AND YES! we need to teach and know how to do mental math, but c'mon... for more than shopping and garage sales, more often than not I'll use a calculator). There is a benefit to doing things the way they have worked for years- such baking cakes in an oven, not a microwave.  Yet, I often choose to microwave items that I need quickly or aren't any worse off by using it.  I think there should be balance in everything and that as a teacher it's my job to meet the needs of my students- and for these digital natives, it's teaching digitally when paper and pencil isn't meeting their needs as effectively as I could hope.

Using an iPad to practice skills we'd otherwise teach using worksheets or flash cards is FUN and entertaining!  Why is fun bad?  Maybe it's the ECE teacher in me; but let's let kids have fun in school.  Why bore them to sleep?  My son bought a Brooke's Reader, second year book recently from our local Friends of the Library that is over a 100 years old.  He likes reading it, but the difference between that reading text and the current second grade ones are huge.  Would we go back to using black and white texts with a small font and few illustrations?  Why should technology be ignored because it's new or fun?

I agree with the parents in the article that kids get too much "screen time"  but I don't think that using computers in class for educational purposes should be considered screen time.

Teaching with technology rule number 2, restated.  Do not waste teaching time with technology; enhance teaching with technology.

I consider choice time in my classroom to be playtime; an opportunity for kids to develop social skills, make their own decisions, and a reward for all their hard work during the day.  I let them "play" with any of the apps on the ipads or any of the computer games and websites.

I have gone back and forth internally about whether to have 'fun' apps- ones that don't teach or practice skills on the ipad and computer for use during choice time.  The fun side of me won- I let the kids choose from toys and learning activities in class during this time- why should the ipad/pc be any different?  I do however have the rule that kids can't watch other kids play on the ipads/computers.  They can have a partner to play a two person game, otherwise children use the computers/ipads individually.  I think watching a friend play is similar to watching tv.

I don't think students should be playing with technology during teaching time.  If older students are using ipads or computers during instructional time they should be using them to take notes or practice the skills being taught, not messaging friends or playing games.  (Although I admit to doing both during boring conferences and meetings.)  I think teachers need programs (and they exist, but I am not familiar with them) that let them oversee student's ipads/ during class-time to eliminate off task behaviors related to the technology.

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