I believe that any tool is only as good as the person who wields it. While anyone could go out and purchase the best oil paints and brushes in the world, it takes an artist to turn a canvas and paints into a Van Gogh. It takes a craftsman to have a pile of wood and a few tools and to come out on the other side with a dining set. And it takes a talented teacher to take a group of students and a classroom with access to computers and the internet to make learning happen.
With that as the foundation of my philosophy about teaching, the question is what does that translate to in my future classroom.
First of all, I know that my students will have technology with them. They will have computers or smartphones or whatever gadgets appear in our increasingly digitized world, and I want to use that. I’ve seen first hand the struggle that teachers have when they try to enforce hard and fast rules on technology use, and have been an offending party myself at times. Rather than fight my students the whole way, I want them to have the opportunities to use their technology for their good, and I want to leverage that technology for their learning. Whether that means having students access a program like Kahoot on their phones, or having them post final drafts of writing assignments on blogs, or simply having leniency when students have a cell phone out during class, I intend to be flexible with technology.
As we utilize technology together, I hope that my example will prove a good model for my students. My personal use revolves mostly around educating myself in various areas including education and English. I see the internet, and technological devices that allow us to access the internet, as one of the most democratic things that has ever happened to mankind. In its most bare-bones form, it allows everyone with access to a device and internet connection endless opportunities to further their education, promote their ideas, and dialogue with others. This attitude towards technology is one that I desire to instill in my students, and I hope it is evident through my teaching practice. I hope that my students learn to use this tool to their advantage, and not their deficit. Like a knife that is less likely to cut them when it is sharp, I hope that they learn to sharpen their internet usage and technology usage across the board. And, I believe that their view of the internet and the tools that technology provides is more important to their future than any of the programs that they may ever use in my classroom.
I will hold this philosophy in one hand, and the technology integration matrix in the other as I use technology in my classroom. Technology in the classroom should be used to make processes more efficient, and it should allow me and my students to achieve things that we wouldn’t be able to do with a pen and paper. With those ideas in mind, I do not intend to use technologies simply to have a fancy gimmick, but to promote and enhance student experiences and learning in my classroom. If the technology takes away from the content, standards, or focus of my students, then I will not use it. It is as simple as that. If I try to implement a tool and it fails, then I will not implement it again, unless I find a way to solve the problems that caused it to fail the first time around. I will not use technological failure as an excuse for my students not to learn, and they shouldn’t use it either. This becomes an equity issue if my students don’t have access to devices or internet connection at home, as many inner-city or rural families experience. If this is the case, then I will structure lessons in such a way that those technologies are not essential to complete class assignments, but keep in mind that the option to use them may be there. If this is the case, then students will not be docked points for the lack of access to technology.
In terms of ways that technology will work to help me achieve these ends, my primary goals in integrating technology will be in terms of providing better access for all students, and providing more efficient means for students to accomplish various tasks. Word processors like Microsoft Word, Pages, and Google Docs, have greatly improved the rate at which students can produce written content. Google docs in particular, when combined with other programs in the Google suite like Classroom and Drive, are great ways to improve the efficiency of student-teacher communication. I can give students live feedback, they can share ideas, and we can all do it from anywhere we have access to a device and internet. Additionally, there are a wide variety of Learning Management Systems through which students and teachers alike can streamline their workflow. I hope to take advantage of these tools, like Canvas, Schoology, or Google Classroom, in ways that have as small a learning curve as possible for my students. For example, if they are already using a Learning Management System (LMS) in another class, why not take advantage of that and have all of their work in one, standardized and unified hub? Through one of these systems, I can provide my students with links to research tools that they may find useful such as Google Scholar.
While I will certainly have my own ideas on how to utilize these tools, I also expect to learn from my students. Often times it is students who are on the cutting edge of tools and how they can be used. As a digital native myself, I have seen first hand what happens when instructors are resistant to the quick changes that technology enables. I will have to remain flexible as my students teach me ways to accomplish things with greater efficiency or to gather more knowledge.
Ultimately, I think that is the point of academia as a whole. It is to learn from one another so that we, as a scholastic community, can learn more, learn faster, and come to better, more accurate conclusions. This requires us to be a community both in our classroom, and also beyond. I will learn from my students as well as other education professionals how to grow my practice of education. Whether this is reading an article that one of my peers posted on Twitter, or listening to a student when they ask, “what if we did it this way?” I mean to have an open mind as I continue to learn new and better ways to implement technology in ways that align with my philosophy. And I also desire to be willing to adapt my philosophy should that improve my learning and my students learning.