Crosspost of my January column for my school’s PTO Newsletter:
Over break, I cleaned out our burgeoning bookshelves, and decided to get rid of our single-volume encyclopedia and our unabridged dictionary. I can’t remember the last time I used them, even with two students in the house. New technology is everywhere. Careers and life and more and more tech-based (even 5 years ago, I never thought ‘technology integration’ would be part of my resume!). Past columns have discussed 21st century learners, and how preparing our kids for jobs which are cutting edge, or even for those that we can predict is doing them a disservice. We need to be using new teaching standards, such as the Common Core, to teach them how to work well with others, be curious and how to find, manage, and manipulate information – all with this omnipresent technology.
Many of the “Top 10 Issues” lists for education in 2013 mention technology. The trick -the real issue – is actually twofold: teaching teachers how to integrate technology, so that it becomes part of the curriculum, not the curriculum itself, and second, how to teach kids to use technology responsibly. Just because they are ‘digital natives’ and have grown up surrounded by technology does not mean they know how to efficiently find information, evaluate its relevance, and then how to use it constructively to create something new. This is one of the school’s new responsibilities.
Hopefully, all of you have been receiving my weekly emails letting you know about what’s going on in computer class. It has been my goal this year to start integrating my class’s curriculum into that of their regular classroom teacher. Basically, my goal is to use technology to reinforce topics covered in their other subjects. We often work on word processing skills by writing with their spelling words or reinforce math by playing money counting or time telling games. Perhaps you read or heard about plotting the Iditarod’s trail on Google Earth before reading their story in 5th grade? The kids probably don’t know it, but by teaching them technology skills when they NEED to know them makes them much more memorable than teaching them out of context or ‘just because that’s what was on the syllabus to teach you today.’
But I can’t get it all done in a year. It is vital that this technology education continues throughout their schooling, partly because I can’t cover everything in 40 minutes per week, and partly because the relevant skills I’m teaching today will probably be obsolete in a couple of years. It is my wish for all our kids that they receive every opportunity to become successful individuals – in grade school, high school, college, and into their careers.
Maybe next year when I go to clean the bookshelves, I’ll get rid of all of them, because who really uses physical books anymore?