Monday, March 29, 2010

Nature vs. Technology? I don't think so!



This past week was Spring Break. My family spent the week in Florida at Everglades National Park. We spent the week exploring, hiking, birdwatching, counting alligators, boating, and basically just enjoying nature.

As someone who spends a good deal of time talking about the power and benefits of technology, I thought I ought to talk a bit about how important I think BALANCE is. For all the time we spend on our computers, cellphones, televisions, ipods, etc..., my family spends a lot of time enjoying nature and the outdoors.

I often hear people talk about technology as a bad thing because it is making kids obese, antisocial, or noninteractive. I disagree with all of those assertions. As a family of technophiles, we enjoy playing sports, exercising, hiking, getting out in nature, camping, etc... One does not automatically eliminate the other.

On the contrary, just as it takes a commitment of time and energy to ensure that we enjoy the outdoors, it also takes a commitment of time and energy to ensure that our kids have a safe and positive experience with technology. Avoiding technology does not mean our kids will have a positive experience with nature. Neither does using technology mean they will have a negative or lack of experience with nature.

The point is both require a concerted effort, as do all things in life: healthy relationships, healthy bodies, healthy finances... Why does technology need to be the scapegoat for the fact that we often don't make these other things a priority. I believe we can and must make time for all these things. In fact, I believe they are interconnected. Technology can help build a love for nature. My children love to research places and animals online. They love to watch video of rare animals they have never seen. We use technology to plan our trips to beautiful natural locations.

I hope our children continue to have a healthy balance in their lives between getting outside and enjoying nature, enjoying healthy relationships with family and friends, and enjoying healthy and safe online habits that encourage social interaction, online learning, and fun!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Is it really our job to teach kids how to live without technology?



This Sunday, I read this article in the Star Tribune. It talked about how professors are asking students to have a technology fast to gain an appreciation of what life is like without technology. It got me wondering. (Surprise, surprise!)

Is it our job to teach kids how to live without technology? Did teachers need to teach kids how to live without cars? Without tv? Without radio? What if your pencil stops working?

I understand that these teachers want their students to understand the value of face to face interaction. I also believe wholeheartedly that we should learn to appreciate nature and the world around us. But it is not like these teachers were leading hikes or canoe trips.

Am I way off on this? I don't have a problem with learning to appreciate life without technology if you are also teaching them about life with technology. Where are the lessons on appropriate use? Who is teaching them how social networks are a valuable networking tool if used properly? Who is infusing these tools into their classroom so students learn how to live WITH technology in a balanced way, using the technology to expand thinking, not shrink it!

Just saying...

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Is Technology an Event?

I am currently reading Curriculum 21 by Heidi Hayes Jacobs. One of the first questions she asks at the beginning of the book is "Is technology use in your district an event?" In other words, are we still in the place where we view technology as an add-on, a novelty, or an extra (if there's time)?

If I'm being totally honest, I would say that much of the time this is true in our district. We haven't embedded technology into what we teach the way we have the pencil, paper, or book. What do you think it will take to move to the point where that is the case?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Priorities

Ask any teacher what they are up to these days and you'd better pull up a chair and bring a snack. There are many new things happening in our schools and teachers are being asked to make many changes to they way they teach. Each change requires time: time to learn, time to apply your learning, time to collaborate and develop new curriculum.

So when I speak to teachers about technology and 21st century learning, I am often greeted with a glazed over look that says, "I don't have time for one more thing." That's not to say that many teachers aren't doing wonderful things with technology. They are. But we could be doing much more. The key is figuring out what are the most important changes that need to take place. This is no easy task. Take the following initiatives:

Data and Assessment
Cultural Proficiency
Technology Integration
Literacy (This includes multiple concepts like Daily 5, Reader's Workshop, Big 6, etc...)
Brain-Based Research
The list goes on...

How do you pick one over another? All are backed up by some sort of research. Some claim to improve test scores.

For me, it comes down to this. Imagine your students as adults. Imagine the world as it will be then (Good luck!) What will make the difference for them? What will make them successful? Healthy? Functional? Happy?

The answer is all of them: But knowing how to access information(in all its forms) and communicating effectively (in all ITS forms) will undoubtedly be important. Knowing how to be safe in an online world will become increasingly important. Knowing how to work with and live alongside people from around the world will be increasingly important. It is hard to imagine how we will do these things without a strong understanding of technology.

How do we infuse technology into our cultural proficiency program? Literacy program? All programs?