April 2, 2014
3 Epic Technologies to Transform Your Classroom – from Douglas Kiang on Edudemic
This post first appeared on Edudemic.I am a teacher, a developer, a parent, and a techie. I love technology in all its forms. Part of my role at my school is to ask, what is the benefit of technology in the classroom? The more I ask this question, the more I realize that it is not about the technology at all. For example, what’s the benefit of scuba gear? When you take a scuba course, you learn the basics: how to put it on, how to adjust it, how to keep yourself safe. But then, relatively quickly, you jump in the water. That's the point where it stops being about the scuba gear. Scuba diving is about all of the unexpected discoveries you come across. It's about the fish, and the shipwrecks, and the treasure. It's not about the great scuba tank you are using. Rather, it’s about all of the places you can go, and the depths to which you can travel, because of the technology. The gear is transparent, and transformative, and because of it, you never look at things the same way again. In my life, and in over twenty years of teaching, only three kinds of technology have fundamentally altered the way that I looked at the craft of teaching. Here they are.
Epic Technology #1: Dental FlossEverybody has to floss. Is there a better way? No. Like it or not, you do it because you know it prevents bigger problems later. However, that waxy piece of string is kind of like the umbrella - it hasn't really changed in all these years, right? Actually, as it turns out, I was wrong. My dentist introduced me to this new kind of dental floss that uses Gore Tex, which is absolutely fantastic. It totally transforms the flossing experience. I still have to floss, but what I realized was that by removing the friction, I could focus on reaching all of those hard to access areas. In school, there are all sorts of things that as teachers, we know we should do, but we don’t necessarily enjoy. Things like recording classroom observations, writing and doing assessments, holding parent conferences, and getting at those little bits of knowledge in the hard-to-reach recesses of a teenager's brain. Technology can help. We can use Evernote to keep track of things that happen in the classroom as they happen, and enter them in Filemaker Bento later. We can use Socrative or Google Forms to do more formative assessment. We can use Skype or Google Hangouts to connect virtually with parents when we need to. All of these tools make it easier to do the things we already know that we should be doing, and make those tasks just a little bit easier.
Epic Technology #2: GPSOnce I got a GPS unit in my car, it forever changed the way I drove. The GPS showed me where I was on my journey. I could enter a destination, and it would always show me how to get there. If I took a wrong turn, or decided to take a detour, it always showed me a friendly blue line to get back to where I wanted to go again. As a result, I felt much more free to explore. A typical course syllabus is fairly linear. Often it shows you more of the things you don’t know yet rather than the stuff you do. A typical map simply shows you all the places you have never been. It doesn’t tell you where you are on the map. It doesn't tell you anything about what you have done or where you are going. Developers know that a good interface, and by extension, good course design, should always show you these three things:
- Where you’ve been
- Where you are
- Where you’re going