I spoke with a friend of mine who is in his first year teaching elementary in New York last Thursday when we did not have class. As old college friend he and I have spent a lot of the past year talking (and grumbling) about our first couple of months as teachers. Unsurprisingly as the pace of the year has picked up I have spoken to him less and less and since about a week before this course began I had not spoken with him at all.
I spoke about the course quite a bit (and positively too) which took him by surprise. He knows I am generally happier on a 5-day backpacking trip miles from civilization than in front of a computer…which isn’t the case for with him. In his bewilderment, he asked “Can you tell me why you liked the course?” I started talking about the class again. Then he says “I still don’t get it. Is it that you are actually learning or that you are going to be using the stuff in your class?”
I guess the answer, which I have yet to tell him is that it is a little bit of both. I really fell empowered by the amount of things I have learned in the class in the last two weeks. I am not saying this to make a good grade in the course and I feel many in the class or my following will agree that sometimes college courses just feel like a hoop to jump through, not a learning experience. With this class I can walk away with a tangible set of tools that are pertinent not only to my job as a teacher but also my personal life. For example, after showing “our” movie (see below) to my sister, we decided to scan pictures from our childhood with our grandparents and share it with them as a wonderful grandparent’s day gift.
I also believe unlike some of the other “pie in the sky” things I have learned in U of L, that the technologies-blogging, Flickr, podcasting, Moviemaker,etc. are actually things that are practical to do in the classroom. They aren’t expensive, they were quite easy to become skilled at, and most importantly they are important tools to teach kids. I think over the course of the class I have realized more and more that incorporating technology isn’t just a way to lure kids into doing work or entertain them. Using technology in the classroom, and more importantly getting kids to use it teaches them valuable skills they will use in higher education and the job market.
Ultimately, I still do not believe we should turn away from using tangible experiences in the classrooms. Moving totally toward a virtual “world” is no substitute for getting your hands dirty or talking to a real person. Our students need social skills acquired from interacting with real people and the dexterity and problem solving skills developed in setting up and performing labs. Like all things technology in the classroom should be used in moderation ( this article talks about the downside to kids having too much screen time http://health.usnews.com/blogs/on-parenting/2009/02/03/television-and-adolescent-depression.html).
I do not feel however the tools presented in this class were meant to be used as replacements for other types of learning experiences. They have often been introduced as ways to present or publish learning experiences instead of take the place of them. Others, such as trailfire and gardenquest do become the learning experience, but they keep students from wasting time on the internet thus making their experiences more productive.