In a world teeming with technology we cannot ignore it’s powerful potential to impact learning for our students. As I contemplated this assignment, I considered how many times a day I check email, send a text, search the Internet for recipes, create materials for teaching a song at church, pin ideas to a board in Pinterest, read the news, read an ebook, listen to music, etc. I access several technologies an hour just as a part of living a modern life. There is power in having information at my fingertips; there is power in the skills I have to utilize technology to learn and create. I realized that I use technology more for day to day living than I do as a teacher. My students use technology for their own purposes just as often as I do. It is a part of them, a part of their lives. Modern technology needs to be a part of their education.
Technology can improve student engagement, optimize limited resources (like money and time), and remove logistical hurdles (like dislike for handwriting preventing a student from writing an essay). Students need to use technology for learning to be prepared for 21st century careers, many of which we cannot even imagine yet. However, just as aspirin is not a panacea for all illnesses and injuries, so technology is not a panacea for all of the problems facing modern learners. Technology should not be used just to be used; teachers must make a “conscious effort to match technology resources to problems that [they] cannot address in other, easier ways” (Roblyer and Doering, 2013, p. 48). In fact, when technology is completely integrated, it should feel organic, natural; the learner should not “stop to think that he or she is using a technology tool” (Edutopia, 2007).
In ELA classes one obvious use for technology is research. However, there are so many more. Technology can allow teachers to differentiate instruction for skills like reading, spelling, and grammar. Often in middle school teachers have so many concepts that they must cover each year that students who do not have the basics fall further behind. Technology allows teachers to remediate those students without teaching unnecessary lessons to students who have already mastered the concepts. Another natural use for technology in an ELA classroom is word processing. Often students resist writing assignments because of the handwriting (and rewriting) involved. Using word processing software allows students to spend more time thinking and less time erasing and rewriting.
Social media is another great technology for ELA classes. There are many applications. Students can discuss reading assignments, and practice thinking about their ideas and arguments before they have to complete a formal writing assignment. Social media also allows students to crowdsource solutions to their problems. Crowdsourcing is a great way for students to do research and explore new ideas. Social media also allows students to find people with similar interests. For a rural school like mine, that is a real bonus of social media.
Technology has the power to engage students when they haven’t been interested before. My church started integrating technology into its curriculum for the youth (ages 12-18) about 4 years ago. In addition to using media to teach the lessons, youth are encouraged to research the topics online and teach lessons periodically themselves. Since these changes were enacted, anecdotal evidence shows that youth involvement and engagement during lessons has dramatically increased. When we put the power to learn in the hands of our students, they take that power and soar.
Roblyer, M. D. & Doering, A. H. (2013). Integrating educational technology into teaching. Boston: Pearson.
Edutopia. (2007, November 5). What is successful technology integration? Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/technology-integration-guide-description