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?”