Tech Toolbox

I’ve been following the buzz on Flipboard re: tech in the classroom.  Seems the consensus is not to simply use tech for tech’s sake.  This leads back to a blogging challenge question I tried to answer last year.  I think the question was something like “should curriculum drive technology or should technology drive the curriculum?”.  I believe most instructors would prefer the former.

I made a case for the latter.  My reasoning was based on the desparate pleas of my adult learners to become more digitally fluent.  We don’t have a lot of tech available for the students, but what we do have, I want to make the most use out of.  A little part of me dies when I see SMART boards being used only to show youtube videos, or for presentations.  Or worse, in the classroom and completely disregarded.

Figuring out the needs and competencies of the learners is key.  I created a imageseries of tasks that were required for my class project,  ranging in technical difficulty from producing a formatted memo using established Word templates, to creating a professional website which includes an animated internet commercial.  Much of the technical learning was self directed.  The groups worked out the tasks and delegated the assignments amongst themselves.  If a learner was struggling, I could spend some one on one time with her or him and work through the problems, most of which involved me asking the learner questions, not telling her what to do.

As I said, the range of tech competencies varied from beginner to advanced.  At the end of the project, though, all the learners were proud of their accomplishments, even if it just meant that they could log in to the active directory, enter a password, open a browser and find my website on their own.

The SAMR model of technology in the classroom outlines the different ways in which we can use tech – through substitution, augmentation, modification or redefinition of tasks.  Redefinition is the ultimate goal; creating activities or learning in ways that were not possible before.  This fits in with the maker culture framework.  What can I create?  What can I produce?

My students created a company.   I was a facilitator, not the sage on the stage.  By the end of their project, they had between 15-20 artefacts in the four skill areas, covering most (but not all) of the CLB competencies.  They used the following technology to complete their tasks:

  • a learning management system to create and share files for the group
  • Microsoft OneNote
  • email
  • Microsoft Word, Publisher, PowerPoint and Excel
  • internet search engines
  • fillable PDF forms
  • http://www.wix.com to create websites
  • http://www.powtoon.com to create internet commercials
  • Photoshop

Some of the tech the learners used, I hadn’t anticipated.  Two of my learners completed a task using excel and photoshop to get the job done.  I don’t even have access to photoshop!  This was done on their own time on their own computers, and was the result of some ingenious problem solving.

If you’re clear what the learning objectives are, and they are connected to a real life experience, then the tech used is irrelevant.  We’ve got the tools sitting there in the toolbox.  Sure, maybe you could bang the hammer into the wall with your forehead, but if there’s a less painful option, why wouldn’t we pursue it?

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