There are 88 standards in the ELA Common Core that expressly mention the use of technology. As educators, we are looking to prepare students for the future they will face. Almost every career, hobby and household will require a level of technology proficiency. The quest to help students face this challenge starts with one important question: What tool do we choose to allow students to reach their greatest potential?
Unfortunately, the tool is the wrong question. There’s a general feeling that by purchasing tablets, laptops, interactive white boards, document cameras or other technology, students will be more engaged and ready to tackle the skills necessary for the 21st century. A tablet does not make a 21st century learner any more than a hammer builds a house. A teacher is the architect of their classroom, looking beyond the horizon to where students need to be.
Education should focus not on the tool, but instead on the student. What environment do we want students immersed in? An environment in which the student is a passive container for knowledge, or one where the student is active in their own learning? Any tool can be used for either purpose. A tablet can be used to distribute information or to allow students to construct their own learning and create. Students can write reports about Finland, or they can connect with actual students in Finland in real time. Students can give a report to their class or publish their work for the world.
The tool is not what matters – what matters is the goal. The right question to ask is “What kind of students do we want?” We want students who are good digital citizens–students who can discern what is a quality source of information and what to do with that information once they have found it.
The right question is: what kinds of pedagogical shifts need to happen in the classroom to guide the students towards the goal? How can the tools you already have support the intentional redesign of the learning environment? What additional tools are needed to support reaching this goal? How will the tool be used to get there?
When we have a plan for what we want students to do, we can redesign the learning environment. Implementing technology tools can help get the students there.