I signed up for a lot of PD sessions this summer. There were 2 reasons: 1) I really want to improve my craft 2) I was afraid I would be bored-first year ever I didn't teach summer school. Well, today was the first of many sessions and I went in bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to learn something new I could use.
Unfortunately, the presenters did not have the same plans. I learned how to use a Smartboard (been using one for at least 3 years and I'm the kind of person who played with it enough in the beginning to already know how to use it). And how to make a powerpoint presentation. *yawn* Seriously! With all the new technology out there-you choose powerpoint! They can match words to definitions and unscramble words though. *sigh* I even asked at one point (because sometimes I have trouble keeping my mouth shut)-most of these are really low-level activities, how would you suggest making them more rigorous. You know what the answer was-make the vocabulary they are matching harder. *d'oh* So let's say it was a very, very long day!
I did realize something though. For a long time now I have been on the fence about all the technology ideals being incorporated into school mindsets. We even now have a laptop cart and each class has 2 ipads assigned to them-more than I know some schools have. Our district wants to go to completely paperless textbooks in the next few years. I think it's great that we are giving our kiddos the tools to compete in society that is always creating, always inventing.
But ask what we do with those laptops? They all login to the same reading program for 45 minutes a week. We are not allowed to download even free apps onto the ipads-simply have to use the one math program on there. It is sooooo frustrating for someone who believes in higher-level activity and differentiation. I am really not a curriculum snob (even though it may seem that way) but I know just from reading all the ideas other posts from bloggers/tweeters/educators that there is more out there! Technology should be stepping up the challenge in the curriculum not dumbing it down. My kids roll their eyes when the laptop cart comes in and that shouldn't be the reaction.
So sitting there in the training when I was pretending to be impressed by how they made a Jeopardy slideshow in powerpoint; I started to make a list of ways we can use technology to challenge the kids!
1) Have them make up the questions! If you going to the pre-made anagram template for the Smartboard or Jeopardy game-have groups of students take turns each week creating the questions for other groups. Give everyone the opportunity. We know from experience in creating assessments how hard it can be to make up a question, even if you know the answer you are looking for.
2) Have them use those ipads to make a book trailer through imovie or take photos with it that represents what inspires them at school and have them create a slideshow from it. Anything that's allowing them to create!
3) Talk about ethics when it comes to technology. There are so many gray areas out there. Do you know I actually saw in our district curriculum where they attributed a source as Pinterest?!? Someone had the idea before it was pinned, whose idea was it-isn't giving them the credit the ethical thing to do!? Is technology helpful or harmful? Great discussions to have!
4) Encourage them to invent new technology. I remember watching I think it was a TedTalk about a child who developed an ipad app. They are capable of those kinds of ideas-even if it's something they just make a model of for now-who knows maybe you could find a way to help them take it farther.
5) Have them make digital stories or digital portfolios for themselves-by having them narrate their own evaluation of their work-that's a higher level activity.
We have so many tools at our disposal that teachers didn't even have 10 years ago! We have to encourage each other to use those in the right way.