Recently, Scott McLeod wrote a blog post titled, “Let the kids touch the computer.” It got me thinking about how many classrooms operate and all of the excuses that we as teachers use for the lack of technology used in the classroom. McLeod’s blog post highlights the work of a teacher by the name of Eric Marcos who has his students making videos to teach one another math concepts. Marcos says, “Let them touch the computer. That’s how the world changed for me, for all of us. If you give kids a little bit of trust and let them try out some stuff, they’re going to come up with fascinating things that will surprise you.”
As far as I am concerned, this is learning at both the most basic level and also one of the most complex. Students learn when they have the time and means to experiment and create. I should not limit this to students of the classroom. It is also how both you and I learn most successfully. Yet this doesn’t seem to jive with what happens in numerous classrooms around the globe. Instead, students are prescribed how and what they should learn with little room for any self thought or discovery.
Many teachers find that they are working in rooms that are ill equipped to give students the learning opportunities that they would like to provide, and I can certainly sympathize. As a general rule, schools do not have the tools to give every student the optimal learning experience. However, with the rate the technology is expanding and improving, this will probably never happen, so what is a teacher to do?
Use what is available and stop making excuses.
Here are a few ideas on how to use technology in the classroom when technology might be scarce:
1. If there is only one computer in the classroom, use it. Use that one computer to its fullest capacity. During class, when students are reading or working on projects, or whatever else you might have them do, make the computer available for the students. No doubt, some may say that it is not fair that one student uses the computer while the others do the work by hand, but it this world were fair, they would all have their own computer. The point is that a computer sitting dead in a classroom is a total waste.
2. Find what resources the school may have sitting in closets and cupboards. I recently worked in a school where several laptops sat dormant in a closet in the library because most teachers didn’t know they even existed. The computers were several years old and had hardly ever been used. I think they were purchased with grant money and used for a year before being put in storage. I am guessing this happens more than most of us think. It’s a crying shame when technology like this sits unused. When computers are outdated even before they are sold, we should be wearing them out, not letting them sit collecting dust.
3. Let students play (I really mean learn) with the Smartboard. While I am not a lover of the Smartboards as a premium learning tool, they are still pretty cool, and my observation is that most are used sparingly in the classroom. When they are used, it is by the teachers. Get the students out of their seats and interacting with the technology. They will like it, and this is how they will learn. This also goes for the computer, the document camera, or anything else running off of electricity in the room. Honestly, I would also say this applies for the blackboard, if that is what you write on in the room.
4. Learn to use the technology available. Many teachers are uncomfortable with the technology that is available, so it often sits unused. Those cool tools are only gadgets if no one knows how to use them. If you can’t figure it out, let the students fiddle with it. They will figure it out for you. This goes for online tools as well. Like Marcos said, the students will surprise you!
5. Do something! There is too much complaining, and believe me, I have done my fair share. “Youtube is blocked. I don’t have enough computers. The internet is too slow.” The truth is, complaining doesn’t help students learn. Use what you have and hope that things get better. Not using what is already available in hopes of having more is not helping anyone learn.
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