Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Why Tech Doesn't Just Mean Computers and How It Can Be Used in Alternative Ways to Change Classroom Dynamics

While I am sure you already realize technology itself is nothing new.  In fact, at one point, a tractor, train, light bulb, and even a pencil were radical technology.  For years, I've been working in schools where they have attempted to implement "tech" in the classroom.  However, the attempt usually is fairly traditional.  It asks the teacher or administration to place more computers in a classroom and increase their use during classroom instruction.  While this is certain a huge part of any tech initiative, it sort of ignores other key technological innovation that are also taking place that our children would profoundly benefit from being exposed to in a school environment.

Makerspaces are all the rage right now.  I must confess, I myself am really into the whole maker movement.  While I find myself knitting on a couch with relative frequency (at night after the kids are asleep), I often think about how we as educators have a profound opportunity to show our kids in a very tactile way the concept of production/creation the highest form of learning according to Bloom. While I certainly don't think we can spend a great deal of any school time teaching kids how to knit, I do think the new technologies like robotics and 3d printing are under tapped in elementary schools.

Like computer science labs, I am not a huge fan of maker labs either.  I think they have to be "classroom" based in order to be actually utilized and done so within the scope and sequence of a solid curriculum.  Classroom based makerspaces also have the advantage of transforming the nature of the typical teaching format bringing "learning centers" from the early childhood years back in play in later grades, something I think has value.

There are so many practices from early childhood and early elementary school education that really should be utilized beyond those years.  I do not advocate them for the purpose of infantilizing our youth, rather I advocate them because they represent solid teaching approaches that too often get a rap of being only age appropriate to younger students.  If anything, learning centers create independent lifelong learners who are capable of driving their own educational experiences.  This is exactly what we want from our students.  Providing a space in a classroom for students to experiment and create, to utilize logic to solve a problem, to create a solution to their own problem, and to try new things creates a safe, teacher approved and supervised space for collaborative thinking.   Personally, I'm all about the 3D printer and robotics, but this could be a space for a variety of new technologies.  It certainly does not have to be limited to those kinds or to the traditional computer area in a classroom.  The concept is changing the way we create time in a curriculum, in a lesson, to allow for more student tinkering.  I'm all for it.  Who wants to try it with me?