Technology – Done right or wrong.

Here is a tip or two for teachers wanting to start this journey.

I have heard some teachers say that they would use technology or start using it if they felt they knew more about it. They feel as though they can not allow students to use technology or new software because they themselves do not have a good understanding of it yet. 

I would like to suggest that it would be good teaching practice at this point to dive in. What I mean by this is to allow the students to learn it for themselves. Here are some pointers:

    • Allow students to launch the program and just fiddle around with it for 5-10 minutes before you dive deeper. Ask them to click various tools and see what happens. 
    •  Accept that you are not always the expert. Students will appreciate it more if you say that you do not fully understand everything about the software yet. Allow them to engage you in a reverse mentoring process (Don Tapscott in Grown Up Digital discusses this to greater length). This means that you are the student and they are the teacher.
    • Try learning a few things about the software before you start teaching it. Show the students this new learning and then allow them to continue on their own.

I think the wrong way at this point would be to approach it by thinking that you can not do this and do nothing about it. Students will surprise you if you give them some ownership in this way. While it is a legitimate fear to feel that way, I encourage those who do feel that way to move to action. You will not regret it.

There have been times when I will give students an assignment and simply say, “I don’t care which program you use to complete this assignment.” If they have to create a promotional poster for a band of their choice in my music class, for example, I will say to them that they may use Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Fireworks, Microsoft Paint (yes, it’s true), Corel WordPerfect, Microsoft Word, Powerpoint or any other program that will allow them the freedom to accomplish what they want. Each and every time, I get a wide variety of file types handed in (no paper). Some students choose a program they are already familiar with and other students choose software they have not yet learned. I have been amazed by some work coming in from those students who were just learning the software on their own.

The main goal in using the technology, remember, is not always to specifically learn the technology. It more often than not is to learn USING the technology. The technology, if chosen right, becomes transparent in this process.