Friday, April 1, 2011

Educational Technology needs to actively engage learners

Educational Technology is a wonderful thing, if  used right. We need to use technology to actively engage students and do different things, not just do the same things differently.

For example, in the "old days", teacher would project transparencies on overhead projectors. Now, they project similar content on expensive interactive white boards. What is being done differently here? Are the students interactive, or is it the teacher being interactive?

Don't get me wrong, I use PowerPoint and a projector (but no IWB) in my classroom. I use them for short lectures and discussions. I also show some short videos and animations through the projector. But I also know that my students need to be active, not passive.

I'm lucky that I have 7 student computers in my classroom. Students get into groups and do labs and they can use the computers to help them. They also use the computers to do research, do online labs (great for money strapped districts), access review materials and create things. They do all kinds of projects in my class, as well as labs. They create videos, presentations, websites, and more as part of their projects. They are able to explore things that they would never have been able to do before. They work in teams to solve real problems and do real research in science.

I also use technology to communicate with them through email, the class blog, and class website. They get information, resources, and help through these technology tools.

Too many times I see schools spend lots of money on technology but nothing new happens. Teachers are still lecturing for 45 minutes at a time to their students, who are still sitting, inactive, in their chairs. Students use $1000 laptops just to write a paper using Word. We need to use technology to get students thinking and solving problems, not just receiving information.

There are a lot of different ways you can use technology to engage students and improve teaching and learning. Get the students active using different resources to create something. Have them share that creation with others and get feedback. Have them solve problems and do projects. Get them thinking and creating. Get them working in teams. Get them active.

If you are looking for ideas and resources for using technology to engage students, here are some resources to get you started.

This blog that you are reading. 

Free Technology for Teachers

Philly Teacher blog

Cool Cat Teacher blog

Discovery Education Network Blog

Tech & Learning Magazine (free for educators)

and go on Twitter and start following other educators. #edchat is a great way to start. Create a Personal Learning Network so you can find more resources and get more ideas.

Here are some articles to get you started with using technology more effectively, engaging students and getting started with Project Based Learning:

Should we force students to learn? or How can we change schools to engage students?

Getting Started with Educational Technology

How To Get Started With Project Based Learning

The Value of Educational Technology

8 Tips for Teachers to Enhance the Use of Technology in the Classroom

How Technology can help Improve Education

Excellent Educational Model - WPI Plan

Technology is a great thing, but it is only a tool. It is only as good as the craftsman wielding it. Educators need to be craftsman and wield their tools effectively. Our goal is to improve teaching and learning and to help our students develop the skills that will serve them in the future.


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