Thursday, August 30, 2007

Building Relationships with Technology

Earlier this week, our district brought in Pat Quinn, author of Changing Lives, to speak about the importance of building relationships. He was very well received and inspired our staff to think about how our actions impact our students. It got me thinking about how technology impacts relationships. I often hear from concerned teachers that technology is isolating and is counter to building relationships.

I understand this concern. I have seen computer labs filled with students who are absorbed by their screens and disconnected by those around them. They use headphones to keep the lab quiet at the expense of interacting with their neighbors. They are not required to discuss, relate, or share in any way. But is this what technology is really all about?

I say no. I say technology is about connecting people across time and space. In my classroom, students are using the technology as a tool to analyze, create, collaborate, and communicate. Technology means communicating with the world through email, blogs, chatrooms, social networks, wikis, discussion threads, multi player games, text messaging and video conferencing. These are tools that we need to use with our students to teach them how to be good communicators. They will use these tools if they are not already. But will they be effective, responsible, empathetic communicators without our guidance?

We want our students to be readers and writers. Here is a great opportunity to teach them these skills. These tools give them an instant audience. Writing a blog means a global audience. Imagine the care and thought your students would put into their writing if they knew people around the world would be reading it. Imagine the power of peer editing when students can read and respond online to each others’ work. Imagine the collaboration of students sharing research on a wiki. Does this sound like isolation? Or are we teaching students to build relationships in new ways? What are some other ways that technology can be used to help our students build relationships?

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