Applying technology: one size does not fit all.

I’ll admit it: I’ve been impressed (and sometimes overwhelmed) with the number and quality of digital technologies, (websites, programs, etc.) that we’ve been examining in the course of the last few weeks. I’ll also admit that I had seen myself as an old codger, one of those teachers who was going to stick to the ‘old fashioned’ ways: pencils and paper and books in my classroom ONLY. These past few weeks have forced me to reconsider some of my nostalgic notions and I’m proud to say that I’m on the technology bandwagon now.

However, this past Inspiration/Kidspiration assignment has also made me reconsider (or at least consider again) the applicability and relevance of technology to certain lessons, units, etc. in the classroom. I had a lesson in mind (let’s not mention backward design just yet) before I even started looking at how I would use Inspiration for the lesson. I was too stubborn to let the lesson go – it really is a good, hands-on application of science principals. I can imagine many teachers who think/feel the same way: they have preferred lessons that they have used in the past and are unwilling to let them go or modify them to make them more relevant to the students. As I worked through the lesson, I had difficulties seeing how to fit Inspiration in as a tool for the student summative reports at the end of the unit/lesson. I had some issues at the beginning, trying to get Inspiration to do what I wanted it to do. Once I worked through my ignorance of the program, I forced it, I made it fit into my lesson. To be honest, it felt like fitting a square peg into a round hole – I didn’t quite see the usefulness of the program for this lesson. I just really wanted it to work!

Working through this assignment led me to some realizations about teaching and lesson planning that perhaps were unintended in the original assignment. I learned to consider the relevance of digital technology as a tool – not every lesson would benefit from the use of certain technologies. I better understand the idea of planning lessons with an end in mind: the learning outcomes. The idea of using technology because of its neat bells and whistles and appeal is similar to the idea of using an automated, robotic welding machine when a plastic zip-tie would suffice. The use of digital technology and how or whether it fits into the learning objectives of the lesson is more important than what kind of technology we use.

In my lesson, I think the use of Inspiration might possibly help some students; but perhaps it was also an unnecessary step for most students. Whether we’re on the fence about using technology in the classroom or we’re itching to get our hands on as much technology as possible, it’s important to consider the utility for the students and in that particular lesson. In our exuberance to use technology in the classroom, for whatever reason (student interest, timeliness, currency, etc.), I think we can sometimes lose sight of the lesson and focus too much on the inclusion of technology. I know I was guilty of this in working on this assignment: my focus became “how can I fit Inspiration into this lesson?” and not “what are the benefits to student learning outcomes from this lesson?”

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5 thoughts on “Applying technology: one size does not fit all.

  1. I totally agree with you when you say that trying to fit technology into a lesson just for the sake of using technology does not create an award winning lesson. I had the same issue when trying to create my lesson for class. In my mind everything was going to work well, then I got into the process of writing the lesson and it became extremely tricky to work out the logistics of how, when, where, and why I was actually using the Inspiration program. I also agree with you when you say that student learning outcomes should be the focus of a lesson. I DO think that Inspiration can work well in lessons and allow you to facilitate student success with regard to learning outcomes. Additionally, the use of graphic organizers has wonderful advantages for students and teachers. It is my belief that it is easier to incorporate technology into a lesson (within an authentic classroom setting) than it is to write a lesson based on the technology (in a hypothetical classroom setting). That being said, within teacher education programs if you do not have the luxury of having an actual classroom to use your lessons in, the hypothetical classroom is your only option and therefore, some assignments seem less relevant and more forced…
    I would encourage you not to dismiss Inspiration as a quality tool within your classroom based on one isolated experience. Instead, the next time you are writing a lesson in which students will be collecting, organizing, or sorting information, use Inspiration to see how effective it can be in an authentic setting. I think you will be surprised and how much easier it is to utilize a tool when you are in need of it, as opposed to being told “here is a tool, use it to make something”. I believe that Inspiration is a fantastic tool that can enhance student learning; I will not not this one rough lesson discourage me.

    • @Levi: Oh no no! I wasn’t dismissing Inspiration or graphic organizers – not at all! I agree with you on the utility of this program and can see multiple benefits for students in the classroom. I’m actually using Inspiration myself for a paper in another class!
      You’re spot on when you say that in teacher ed programs, without the benefit of actual classrooms and students, these assignments based on hypothetical classrooms and students can feel “forced”. Perhaps a better word would be “contrived”? I wasn’t ready (or willing!) to abandon the lesson plan, and that didn’t help trying to fit in Inspiration. It was a VERY useful exercise though, as it did allow me to become more familiar with the inspiration program and I was able to reflect on the ideas mentioned in my post.

  2. I can see how it is difficult for older teachers to use technology in their curriculum. It is not something that they have grown up with and are not as comfortable using. Our older generations must adapt their ways to let technology become part of their everyday life, while our younger generation of teachers who have had technology as part of their everyday life. It comes much easier for them. Technology can help our students in so many ways so as future teachers we will have to come out of our comfort zones and adapt our curriculum that will best serve our students. It may not always seem necessary or the way we learned something but times have changed and are continuing to change.

  3. I have come to terms with the fact that we can not just use something for the sake of using it in our classroom, but that it must be used for a purpose. I too struggled at first with incorporating Inspiration into one of my math lessons because I don’t think we normally see programs like Inspiration being used in math classes, at least I know I haven’t. Inspiration didn’t even have a math section with samples in it like it does for science, ELA, and social studies, so right there maybe they are even saying they know it might not be best suited for math classes.

    I think all pieces of technology have a target, whether it is age, subject, or academic level, and I think we as teachers have to figure out if it is something that we feel as though would fit into our lessons or teaching. As you mentioned @irozteach, it is not a one size fits all model anymore, and maybe that means what we use with one class we don’t use with another, or that if a teacher down the hall was able to use a new program we might want to, but it might not be well suited for our own students or the outcomes we want to achieve. I know this is something that I have to keep reminding myself of, but I think like with anything else, it sometimes come down to a trial and error situation and really just understanding your own students and utilizing the technologies that will meet their needs and learning styles best.

  4. Right… the old “cart before the horse” problem. Although not knowing/understanding what one’s options are to support learners and to make the learning experience as meaningful and powerful as possible is certainly a problem, the problem you point out is also one to wrestle with. Outcomes first. Choice of methods and tools next. And, to further complicate this, some of the decision making here is largely driven by one’s own experiences and beliefs.

    Who said any of this was easy?

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