Wisdom Begins with Wonder

Technology trojan horse

I’ve been supporting  teachers a lot this summer via technology training.  Technology is not my passion; inquiry is my passion.  Unfortunately, because I am competent with technology and have been using it in my classroom, more and more teachers keep coming to me asking for help.  I find that teachers are hungry for technology instruction – especially from other teachers.  Rather than resenting the fact that they want to hear about technology and not inquiry-based instruction, I use the former as a modern Trojan horse for the latter.  If technology can get me into teachers’ heads with my ideas about inquiry and differentiation then so be it.

modern Trojan horse

modern Trojan horse

Technology can be a very powerful tool to support inquiry, to differentiate instruction, and for creating more democratic and student-centered classrooms.  Technology is the means, not the end.  Technology can make student-centered instruction easier for teachers to do.

In a technology-rich and student-centered classroom, students create products that demonstrate their knowledge, rather than taking traditional tests.   Product creation inspires in students a need to seek knowledge, to analyze and evaluate information, to synthesize that knowledge to produce a quality product.  These products are then easily shared with people outside the classroom, thus raising the stakes for students without needing the artificial construct of grades.

From another perspective, though, the real problem isn’t grade inflation–it’s grades, which by their very nature undermine learning. The proper occasion for outrage is not that too many students are getting A’s, but that too many students have been led to believe that getting A’s is the point of going to school. – Alfie Kohn, The Costs of Overemphasizing Achievement

Students can show knowledge in an infinite variety of ways when the doors of technology are opened to them.  The key is that the students are given the freedom to choose the tool and method of demonstrating knowledge, even if that means using no technology at all (I’ve had kids opt to create handmade posters instead of technology infused products and do outstanding work).

If my technology training helps even one classroom to become more student-centered in the process, then I have succeeded.



4 comments ↓

  • #   Sean Nash on 08.18.10 at 2:46 pm     

    Boy… you are speaking my language in this one.

    As a longtime biology teacher of about 14 years, and then an instructional coach/teacher for four, and now “Acad. Technology Inst. Specialist” (I now only teach one period of Marine Biology as a night course.) I can say that I have long considered myself a “trojan horse” of solid instruction in “this guy knows tech” clothing.

    As a generalist IC, I can say that teachers are far more willing to allow you into their world to help with “tech” issues than with pedagogical issues. Not all, but most. I think the reason for this is simple really. It still is OK for folks to claim (as Karl Fisch popularized years ago) that its still socially acceptable in many circles to claim technological illiteracy.

    Well… whatever works. That creates the wedge. From there, the ability to be a servant leader and build strong mutual relationships allows you to get to a place where sacred pedagogical conversations can happen. I’d like to say this isn’t “rocket science,” but it really is on some level. People are complex. Smart people are even more complex as a general rule.

    And the science connection here? I truly think there is something to that. I have a large number of science educators in my personal learning network. Some of that is no doubt due to my teaching area… much of it is the correlation with a sense of true inquiry. In this case… inquiry regard what works in schools, in classrooms, and with kids.

    Glad to have “met” you. Excellent post.
    ;)

    Sean


  • #   Mr. Rice on 08.18.10 at 4:26 pm     

    Sean,

    Thanks for dropping by and for the kind words!

    I think it’s more important now than ever for people who are teaching people how to use educational technology to have a strong grasp on effective instruction. Otherwise we wind up with debacles like schools spending thousands of dollars on interactive whiteboards that are used as glorified chalkboards for lecture.

    Glad to have “met” you too.


  • #   MrSrvelis on 08.19.10 at 2:17 pm     

    I am conducting our environmental science class through a project based approach. Students are assigned to groups, given a course objective, and asked to go become experts about any aspect of the objective that interest them. I am having some difficulty however. We have access to a limited library and internet. Most Internet search engines are blocked, most good journals want money, and my kids (10th- 12th) do not know how to find information. I was amazed that after assigning a topic like “technology and the environment” most student came back empty handed. Any advice? How do I teach them how to research?


  • #   Mr. Rice on 08.19.10 at 8:22 pm     

    Mr Srvelis,

    PBL is awesome. Your students are fortunate to have this experience!

    I have some good research resources on my other blog here: http://wshsscience.edublogs.org/online-resources/ I especially recommend Sweet Search (http://www.sweetsearch.com/). I also have several links to sites for primary source research.

    One key idea of the PBL approach, in my opinion, is that students need a driving question that they are trying to answer with their research. This question might be teacher generated (especially early on) but should ideally be student generated. This question guides their research all the way through the project.

    Check out the Buck Institute for Education (http://www.bie.org/) for great info on PBL.

    Maybe you could give me some more details of your project? Shoot me a DM on twitter (@MrTRice_Science) and I’ll send you my email address.


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