Editor’s note: Whenever I travel out of Maine, teachers ask me about Maine’s 1:1 MacBook program for middle schools. Since I don’t teach in a middle school, I thought it would be good to share the perspective of a Maine middle school teacher.
The great thing about teaching with technology is that it can open new doors for your students. However, you have to be willing to walk through that door with them in order to see those benefits. Since you’re reading a blog entitled “Free Technology for Teachers,” I’m guessing you’re already there.
The trap too many of us fall in to with technology is that we’re just doing the same things we’ve always done, except now there’s a computer involved. Sure, there are some “21st Century Skills” that students achieve (often times we falsely assume through osmosis), but at the end of the day, showing video clips on Youtube is no different than popping a video in the old VCR.
Likewise, much of the same classroom management challenges we faced before we introduced laptops to our students are still there and are manifesting themselves in new ways. Too often I hear teachers blaming these classroom management problems on the technology itself, rather than the real root causes. Texting is just note passing. Even with technology, you still need clear and consistent expectations, engaging lessons, and an understanding of how the adolescent mind works.
In my room, the desks are arranged in groups that face each other to encourage collaboration among students. Some teachers dictate how their classrooms should be physically arranged based on the need to “see” every student’s screen. I made my decision based on what I felt would be best for my students in the long run, not the need to have a semblance of control (an extra benefit is that it encourages me to move more in my classroom to assist students and monitor their activity instead of sitting at my desk and staring at the back of my students’ heads).
To really revolutionize our classrooms, we have to fully embrace Web 2.0. At the end of the day though, the things that make Web 2.0 great- collaboration, peer feedback, real-world application- are the things that have always been the key ingredients to great teaching. The upper levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy don’t change because you’re connected to the internet. It’s the fact that you can now access and create content on an international level, twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, that makes it truly powerful.
In the past, great teachers have struggled to engage their “hard to teach” kids across the learning spectrum. However, we now have a limitless amount of resources at their fingertips. We live in an age of self-guided learning, where students can access huge amount’s of college-level material from MIT and Yale. If the technology your student needs isn’t out there, they can create (and monetize) their very own app to get the job done! The possibilities, for once, truly are endless.
We have always known that learning never stops, but now we have an incredible amount of resources that make it easier than ever before. If you’re a great teacher, you’ll still build your learning activities with those key elements like you’ve always done, except that the doors you open for your students will be more limitless than ever before.
About the Guest Blogger
Ryan Reed is a second-year middle school teacher in Maine, where seventh and eighth grade public-school students and teachers have been provided Apple laptop computers for the last decade. You can connect with him on Twitter.