Well, heck– we’ve got a rubric for everything else, don’t we? I sat down to write about reading/writing and technology, and this came out instead.
I’m not arguing here against tech being a powerful means of delivering information, mind you—for example I think Mr. Mayo’s Skyped conversation with the director for an Ad-Free Childhood absolutely rocks, or Dy/Dan’s love affair with his digital projector. I’ve asked kids to take pictures with their cell phones of grammatical errors in the world.
Rather, I’m talking mainly about tech that claims to have inherent pedagogical value.
So here we go.
1) Does the technology, a priori, add value to the learning?
Have you noticed that good teachers can scaffold good pedagogy around an empty juice box? So why is no one on board with “One Empty Juice Box Per Child”?
Because we know better, deep down. The tech has to teach the student something of value on its own before we can justify asking a teacher to pour energy and resources into using it. And trust me: there’s a lot of tech out there that is just an empty juice box in the end.
2) Does this value-added, teacher-independent learning relate DIRECTLY to my content objectives and standards?
Sorry. “Universally related” or “indirectly related” just doesn’t cut it—this is the open door for uncritical idolatry. For example, I have never understood the lumbering Godzilla-like argument that because our kids are “digital natives,” we should de facto use tech in school. Why? If using tech is as natural to them as breathing, isn’t this like asking us to teach kids to breathe?
Now, perhaps your kids are in Appalachia, as Greg Cruey’s are, and are on the wrong side of the digital divide. At this point clearly you’ve got a stronger argument for spending precious pedagogical minutes on the “how to”s of tech.
However, let’s say you teach in a solidly middle class district, as I do. My students don’t need practice in configuring a web page, podcasting, Youtubing, or uploading pictures. THEY ALREADY KNOW THIS STUFF—a heck of a lot better than I do, in fact. In my classroom, they do need to know about how a main character in a compelling story can help them lead better lives of their own. What tech— a priori, remember—helps them do that? I’m not saying it doesn’t exist—only that we must be very careful in our approach to it.
An important exception would be if your content objective is, in fact, evaluating Web content critically (and it sure should be at some point). For this, obviously, any 2.0 tech can be made to serve your purpose. But even here, it is crucial to remember that is the TEACHER creating the learning: not necessarily the tech itself.
3) Can we learn the basics of the tech (not counting bells and whistles) in twenty minutes?
Yep. Twenty. Any more is a waste of my time and my students’.
Or, barring that…
4) Does the tech have the Dishwasher Effect?
In otherwords, does it provide an eventual incontrovertible savings of oodles of time?
5) If it breaks, is there someone at school who can fix it?
If not, is there a workable Plan B?
6) If it is new to my school, will my school support it (even via oblivion to its existence)…
or firewall it before I can make it work in my classroom?
7) Have I sufficiently balanced the use of the tech with the things tech has inherent danger of obliterating:
- Environmental sustainability?
- An authentic human connection to the students’ local community: home, school, society, and ecosystem?
- A multi-sensory, diverse experience of the world?
Not everyone is going to agree with me on this last one, but I’ve included it because it’s where I find myself stuck the most. These three things are absolutely essential to educating our students to be good people, and our schools already don’t do enough to address them. If I am going to pile the siren call of technology on top of that fundamental deficit, I’d better have a darn good reason for it.
In many instances, I don’t yet. Although I’m basically an experienced teacher, I am new enough to my subject area to feel that I haven’t developed my curriculum enough yet to give technology this balance. To me, this means right now I just might be better off figuring out how to get my kids to a play, rather than on Powerpoint.