I’ve had a number of really interesting conversations with my colleagues lately and many of them have centered on the idea of digital learning in the classroom. I am a huge proponent of digital learning as I feel it works for so many of our students, but one of the misconception is that when you’re a digital teacher, that’s all you do. For me that’s the farthest thing from the truth. My teaching does involve technology quite often, however, the purpose behind technology in the classroom is to augment my pedagogy not be the sole driver. I actually get quite annoyed listening to people talk about how it’s either technology in the classroom or nothing at all. I firmly believe it’s a balance of technology as well as “traditional “methods as that’s how we meet the needs of our students.
In considering the needs of our students, this year I use technology quite differently between my classes. Many of my grade 10 applied students appreciate paper more so than technology and so that’s what we do because that’s what works for them. In contrast, my grade 11 class is quite technologically augmented as that’s the world in which most of them live. They are savvy and engage in the digital realm constantly and so that style of learning works for them. To be low-tech would be a disservice because that’s not how they learn. I teach these classes back to back but in very different styles because that’s what my students need.
In my opinion, technology is a fabulous tool. It captures the learning as well as ignites it for some students, but there are many times where technology is unnecessary. Sometimes a good old think-pair-share is way more effective than a technological tool. I often use strategies such as a gallery walk, both large and small group discussions, four corners, choose a side, thumbs up thumbs down, etc., and those methods are just as important for enhancing skills and sparking/furthering/deepening learning.
So it strikes me as interesting as to how these two camps have sprung up. Why are we either technology / digital teachers or traditional teachers? Why do we need a distinction? Is it rooted in fear? Are we afraid that it’s all or nothing? Isn’t our mandate to facilitate learning? Why are we spending time choosing a camp? Why can’t we just think about the best means for learning to happen in our own individual classrooms? I worry that we are tearing each other down when we should be building our colleagues up and as well sharing our strategies for guiding the learning.
For me it’s the pedagogical value that technology adds that supplements my practice, but realistically, it’s just one tool that I have in my toolbox to get the students thinking.