Monday, December 14, 2009

New Toys

It's the end of the year and that means two things for newspapers and magazines: lots of retrospective looks back at the best and worst of the year and lots of crystal ball gazing as to what the new year will bring. Even though schools operate on an offset schedule, it doesn't stop the educational journalists from indulging. I mean, who wants to feel left out?

Anyway, the experts at THE Journal have put together their predictions for what 2010 will hold in terms of classroom technology. The predictions are: more e-books, more netbooks, more interactive whiteboards, more personal devices (i.e. smart phones) in the classroom, and more individualizd instruction through technology. Presumably there will be less of some things also, but they don't make the article.

It's interesting, because to a large extent it's probably right. As the new technology is released and then becomes mainstream, teachers are looking to find ways to use it. It's seen as a high interest way to hook kids into the curriculum. While teaching about the Greek-Persian wars, I had my students create blogs and write about what was happening. The kids loved it.

The catch, though, is that I don't know that they really learned anything extra about Greece by writing what they knew on a blog rather than a regular old paper. Maybe they learned some technology skills. Maybe they were more motivated and so put in more effort and thus learned a little more. But essentially it was the same content in a new medium.

Whenever I read about a teacher incorporating Twitter into a lesson or something like that, I can't help but wonder if it isn't being used just as a gimmick. Is it boosting learning or just changing the packaging? Right now we seem to be doing a lot of repackaging. But I think that's probably the first step toward changing something more fundamental.

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