“Were you raised in a barn?!” — Reflecting on my Own Views of Technology

I was raised by parents who held firmly to many of the ideals of their earlier hippie days. Thus, rather than growing up in the world of Rugrats, the Mario Brothers, and N’Sync, I was encouraged to spend my days playing outdoors, making art, and reading books. Later in high school, I was the last of my friends to have a cell phone (after swearing I would NEVER own one). Just this weekend, I was mocked by coworkers when they realized I have yet to own a smartphone (“were you raised in a barn?!”). All this is to say that when I think about the ways I will incorporate technology into my classroom, I realize that I need to reflect on the ways in which my own personal upbringing and skepticism of our society’s absolute reliance and fixation on technology will influence how I use it in my own classroom.

Obviously we live in a technologically-advanced society where it is a necessary and crucial for students to be taught to use and master various forms of technology. I was amazed when working with a fifth grade blind student last year just how much new technology has revolutionized her ability to thrive in a general education classroom. She relied heavily on her Apex (a Braille computer), her I-Pad (with numerous apps designed specifically for blind users), and her I-phone. She can easily text, email, and print using these devices–at nearly the same speed as her peers. It is remarkable to search through different educational websites and apps and see how many cool options there are out there. I look forward to seeing the ways that different technologies are used at my school, as well as reading about and exploring new technological tools this year.

Conversely, I hope I can continue to instill in children that while technology can in many ways enhance and add great value to each of our lives, there is a way in which an over-reliance on these tools and machines can at times lead us to miss out on the beauty of life. I once taught a lesson on Thoreau to my 9th grade English students where they had to sit in silence outside for one hour–entirely disconnected from any piece of technology and from each other. They were encouraged to listen, observe, and draw or write about the nature surrounding them. Before the lesson, the students complained and whined to no end. “This is going to be horrible, Ms. Lanctot! What am I supposed to do with myself? I’ve never had to go fro that long without my phone or talking to someone else!” At the end of the hour, we came back together to reflect on the experience. Students shared that they were surprised how refreshing and relaxing it was to just have time to think and process and observe without any distractions. They asked if we could have an hour each week to “do the Thoreau thing.” All this is to say that I hope I can find a balance in my classroom–that I can use technology to add value, creativity, and peeked interest to the learning environment, while also finding spaces to give students a time to disconnect and “de-screen” in order for them to potentially see the world around them in a different light.

These are two great resources I will use as I seek to find this balance:

Edutopia Blog on Finding Balance Between Technology and Teaching

(“Ultimately it’s not about how many apps we integrate, but about providing our students with the best access and opportunities to contemporary learning resources.”)

Catapult Learning Article about Technology in the Classroom

(“A study conducted by MIT found that students can remember only 10% of what they read, 20% of what they hear and 50% of what they see demonstrated. But when they’re actually doing something themselves—in the virtual worlds on iPads and laptops – that retention rate skyrockets to 90%.”)

Wow!

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