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Tech in the classroom: Readers share their perspectives

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SmartBlog on Education has launched a Friday Feature series, in which editors highlight reader comments and popular blog posts from the week and ultimately create a space for educators to engage, innovate and discuss.

If you’re a teacher, you’ve probably had this happen at some point: You learn you’re being given a piece of technology to use in your classroom and feel elated. Then, when you sit down to figure out how to use it in your lessons, you’re at a loss.

That dilemma was the subject of Nicholas Provenzano’s post on educational technology. Provenzano, a high-school English teacher and technology-curriculum specialist in Michigan, says a common problem he sees with educational technology is teachers’ and administrators’ belief that they must “look at a tool and try to build a lesson around it.”

Provenzano argues that tech belongs “at the end of the [curriculum-design] process,” not the beginning. “Teachers are amazing not because of the technology they have in their classroom, but because of the lessons they create,” he writes. “Technology does not belong in every lesson just because there is a tool sitting there.”

Many who read Provenzano’s piece tweeted and shared it with peers, and several readers shared their thoughts in the comments section. Here are a few.

Marcia: “I love the reminder that the centerpiece of any instruction including the mode of presenting and [processing] is based upon a teacher making a decision. … Sometimes, we confuse 21st century learning with the use of technology, when in reality this is a time when the ability to collaborate, think critically, and [effectively] communicate is essential. All three of these processes can be enhanced through the use of technology, however, keep in mind the technology is a tool to facilitate.”

Rich: “I agree that many great lessons do not need technology. … However, it needs to be recognized that technology makes some great lessons possible that were unthinkable before. I think of a recent lesson I participated in that featured a leading literature professor from a university in Indiana presenting information and answering questions for students in classes in Alaska. That lesson was made possible by the technology. However, the lesson wasn’t designed for the technology, it was made possible by the technology. That might be the better measuring stick. Lessons designed to leverage technology are different from lessons designed to feature technology.”

M. Dominguez: “I agree with you completely. … I wish the education milieu would take time to observe more objectively the actual impact of technology on learning; many of the perceived efforts of the use of technology such as customization, sharing … ‘authentic’ publishing on the web, and real time/instant results to [gauge] students’ grasp of content. All of these sound good from a marketing standpoint but from experience as a teacher, I see students becoming more insular in their views and reluctant to stretch their thinking and efforts with more customization, being less purposeful in what they share and why they are sharing their work.”

brkuhn: “Just ‘adding’ technology after the fact will usually be a substitution, maybe an [augmentation] and provides lower value. I believe that technology shines best when it changes teaching and learning in amplified ways not previously possible, unlocking new possibilities to engage, inform, enable new collaborations, expand learning/knowledge, etc.”

Jill: “Teacher education programs should never be focused on technology either, but rather on building teaching capacity. In the old days, we were in trouble when the movie projector broke if we couldn’t improvise on the spot. As teachers, we need to be able to know and extend our abilities as teachers independent of each new technology device or tool so that we know in fact what tools to use. In a world in which many of our students are numbed and stunted by overexposure to an alternate [reality], we are sometimes their best guide toward learning about their capacity to learn without relying on being plugged in or ‘engaged’ by the latest bells and whistles.”

Sarah Wade is a writer at SmartBrief. A recent graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, she writes for food, retail and hospitality briefs and contributes to several SmartBlogs.