There are three things that technology does well in the classroom. Just three.
The first is communication. Most people would admit that technology has been an important factor in modern communication. The telegraph, the telephone and other devices have provided the means to get connected to people around the globe. The quality of those communications are up to the participants, but the tools work.
In classrooms, this means that teachers and students can communicate with each other in powerful ways. Teachers can gather student work, their ideas, their understanding, both quickly and accurately. Students can collaborate in class and from separate homes. Other teachers can be accessed online and a world of information is at everyone’s fingertips.
It should be noted that, at this point in time, computers are not very good at complex communications. Understanding the nuances of human interactions is currently beyond machines. Emotion, passion, and the illogical behaviours of people are not understandable. They just don’t compute. Fortunately for employed teachers, students are always ready with emotions and illogical behaviours.
The second thing technology is good at is engaging students. The power of technology often lies in its ability to draw in the user. Users feel the power of the tool and revel at what they are able to do with the tool in their hands. This can be a well-balanced paintbrush or a new iPad. The hook is the places you can get to, once the tool is in your hand.
Our students are engaged as soon as they hear the iPads are on the way. They see iPads as fun. They think about games, and online searches. They think about being successful and exploring topics of interest. The teacher can be an important guide in this process.
Teachers can use this engagement in the tool to facilitate an engagement with the curriculum. Students need to see that the real engagement comes from the creations they make and the new learning they can accomplish. I often tell teachers that we never put the artist’s tools on the wall, just their art.
Technology can bring kids into the classroom in a new way. It gives them new tools to explore and create. With a little direction, the tool quietly disappears and the content comes alive.
The third thing technology can do is build creative spaces. This includes creative classrooms and digital spaces.
From ancient Greece to modern times, the place where people learn has always benefited from technology. From drawing with a shaped stick to the iPad, creative spaces are supported by technology. Mobile technology has asked we make changes to the physical setup of our classrooms. This has included changing libraries into learning commons. Further, the classroom has been rearranged to suit digital learning.
Desks are on wheels. Tables are replacing desks. Video booths and green-screens are popping up. Teachers are recycling their old desks and moving out into student spaces. Having one-to-one, mobile, connected, digital tools is reshaping our ideas about classrooms.
The modern classroom also benefits from virtual spaces. Students can write, video, draw and express their creativity in an online environment. These “digital workshops” allow students new tools and spaces to be creative. I find that digital spaces allow students to express themselves in novel ways. They fly through Minecraft worlds of their own creation. They publish words for a global audience. The digital spaces seem to be without-end.
In the end, people make a classroom. Their complex, nuanced relationships allow for learning. The emotions and illogical behaviour are just part of the learning that takes place.
Technology does three things in a classroom. Just three.