While reading through my course outline for 8Y59 I noticed: "First Post: Why did you take this optional course? What is your view of technology in education?" So without further ado ... welcome to my first post.
Well, I'd like to say that I took this course solely for my future students' benefit since I recognize that effective use of the available technological tools will be of significant assistance in their learning. I can keep them more engaged with a few "wow, how did he do that" moments. I'll be able to maximize the use of class time by offering them the means to experience auditory, visual and tactile learning along with additional resources for more enthusiastic students. Unfortunately, the valid shouts of my altruistic self are being overwhelmed by ...
My selfish side. What can I say ... I like to play with toys. The first time I saw a smart board and actually got a chance to work with it, I recall my inner geek screaming "this is ... like ... the coolest thing ever." I'd like to say that I'll bring overwhelming enthusiasm to every course that I'm asked to teach. Oh yeah ... I just can't wait to be trying to find a less rote-memory way to teach biological chemical processes ... and um, lets delve deeply into what the symbolism behind that black flower in (what was that book we were reading anyways). Yes, I recognize that I won't be won't always be screaming Latin phrases at the top of my lungs within an ancient history class. Nor will I always find the opportunity to show people the beauty of the bell-curve, or the fun of probability. But with the use of technology within the class, every so often my inner child will overwhelm my feelings on the material and remind me that it's play time, and play time can be nothing but fun.
My selfish side also reminds me that there are a whole lot of us out there looking for jobs. A whole bunch of well-qualified, well-trained, enthusiastic people looking for a limited number of positions. Yes, as a mature student, I'm going to be noticed among the group by virtue of my greying hair. I just want to make sure that I have a more tangible and skill-related difference than others to offer when it comes to the hiring time. Being noticed is nice, but following that up with a rare skill to highlight on my resume will be critical. I want a full-time job sooner than later, and courses such as this will help push my CV to the top of the pile.
With regards to technology in the classroom, it's a double edged sword. As long as it remains a tool, it is an invaluable resource. Provide a class with PowerPoint slides ahead of time, and they have the ability to consider the material ahead of time and develop questions that will afford them a deeper and individualized understanding ... or at least ensure that they have a readily available resource to ensure that missed classes can be caught up. Assignments can be sourced far more quickly so more time can be devoted to writing the paper than finding the material. Finally, students can actually focus on the new material as opposed to the rote processes required to develop answers since there are tools available to do the manual work.
Unfortunately, technology quickly becomes a crutch if you don't ensure that the skills behind the tool are learned. In addition, it's critical to ensure that along with the use of technology, the students and teachers develop a high level of adaptability. We've all seen the "what will I do now" dance when an instructor's power point presentation didn't save properly or the smart board won't turn on. Some teachers skate through gracefully, some fall through the ice, and some just leave the skate guards on and walk out. Similarly, the loss of wifi due to the college strike resulted in Mohawk Students exclaiming that they couldn't get their schedules, couldn't do research for papers, and couldn't connect with their friends back home.
Overall, I'll go back to the calculator for my closing.
1) In the 70s, there were no calculators allowed in public school - calculations were done manually or not at all. Today, this would seem more like trying to hide from reality than effective schooling.
2) In the late 80s, I wrote my first few actuarial exams with a calculator with highly advanced functionality ... there was a % key and also a 1/x. 1.07 * = * = M+ * = * = * = * MR * 1.07 ... woo hoo, my first of 3 calculations is done for my 37 year annuity and I ask myself, are we testing my knowledge of annuities or my ability to perform rote mathematics?
3) Finally, you walk into a high school class today and ask them to multiply 2 x 3 ... and then offer them graphing calculators. For me, there's nothing sadder than seeing students reach for calculators when they could count fingers to get an answer faster.
Somewhere between these 3 options is the right balance. It's unrealistic to keep the tool out of the students' hands as they will be using it outside of school and we need to mirror reality. It's helpful to know how to complete more difficult calculations manually, but too much focus on the calculations detracts from learning. And finally, there are times when we have to find a way to say no to technology.