Tablets, Smartphones, SmartBoards, Apps, and more are invading our classrooms. They bring interactivity, multi-media, and edu-tainment. They bring new classroom management challenges (oh, how to have a jammer for text messaging in my classroom!) But is it okay to not use digital textbooks, eReaders, Smartboards, or videos? Is it okay to do things “old school?”
Let me first assure you that I do love technology. Case in point– summer of 2010 I brought home two very exciting new additions to my life: my newborn son and a copy of Office 2010. One of them did a lot of fun stuff those summer days, while the other mainly slept and ate and didn’t come with a Help button…
I love exploring new technology, and I love many of the possibilities it offers. But my classroom was not a technologically advanced classroom. I did not have a Smartboard. I had a chalkboard… sometimes, I even had chalk! Sometimes I worried that my students were missing out by not being able to pull out some digital device to look things up or watch a video or text-in an answer.
My classroom was not the only hopelessly out of date classroom out there– there are many, I’m sure, in areas too cash-strapped to upgrade. And yet, in spite of this, my students learned. At times, they were engaged in projects that did not use or require technology. Other times, they were working on regular old school work– dead trees to read from and write on. Things not inherently “fun” or “interactive” (overlooking the fact that learning can be fun just because it’s learning!)
Technology can easily become a crutch. We rely on it rather than ourselves. Such as taking a photo of the lecture notes or getting a PowerPoint from the teacher– rather than doing the work of reading and re-writing (and in theory writing down only the important stuff), students “save” themselves work. But what are they losing? Students no longer have to process the information. They just “have” it, which skips an important step of learning.
But what about scaffolding? How does one build connections if information is not retained? How much more is remembered by writing (even copying) something compared to taking a picture or reading the notes (assuming the student actually does that, rather than planning to but failing to follow through?)
Back in math class, sometimes we would have to work without our calculator (gasp!) to ensure we knew the process and complete it manually. I think that this notion applies to all classrooms, from time to time. Can the student spell without spellchecker? Can they take notes by hand and capture the important information? Can they do order of operations without a calculator? Can they read a diagram that’s not interactive? Can they find things in a book rather than online?
And I do believe that not only is okay to not use technology, but it can be useful to do things ‘old school.’
(You’ll pry my digital gradebook from my cold dead hands, though.)
Clair Dickson, high school English teacher (and computer nerd!), likes free eTexts and Project Based Learning to stretch her meager budget. Visit her store High School English on a Shoestring Budget to stretch your budget.