Dear World of Educational Technology,
STOP BEING SO CRAZY.
Utilizing technology does not have to mean using the flashiest, fanciest, floofiest of websites with all the bells and whistles. It doesn’t have to mean spending tens, hundreds, thousands of dollars on software or tools. It doesn’t even have to mean using the Internet.
Yes, that program that has come pre-installed on Windows computers since the dawn of technology. That one that we all used to use to doodle on the slow Windows 95 computer of our childhoods (ok, yes, I’m a millenial – this might not be true of all teachers, but you get my point).
My freshmen are reading the novel Lord of the Flies by William Golding. We’ve just (finally, after what feels like years of reading) arrived at the descriptive scene where Jack and his hunters finally find success and kill a sow. I know my kiddos have been a little bored and frustrated with the novel, so I really wanted them to get involved and get interested in this part.
I split them up into five groups and put each group in charge one particular section of the day’s reading. This is a STAAR-centered class, so their first step was to work together to answer some specific questions about the text. But once they finished that, the fun began. Each group was tasked with using Paint (“What’s that, Miss?” they ask, making me feel old) to create an image of what they read, labeling their image with the words from the text.
I sat at my desk to take and submit attendance for the class period and listened to the students talking while they thought I was distracted. I heard things like “Uh, no, his hair should definitely be long. They’ve been on the island for, like, months.” and “No, he doesn’t have a beard! He’s like 12!” and “It says they stuck the spear in her butt, so we should totally draw the spear in her butt.”
I was tickled pink. Freshmen who yesterday hated having to read this novel were now discussing it emphatically. Now, I’m not going to say that their images were the most brilliant of artistic feats, but they certainly showed an understanding of what was happening in these frightful pages of the novel.
Ok, so what’s the point in using Paint instead of a blank piece of paper and some markers?
For one, let’s just talk time. I don’t know about other students, but my precious kiddos always want to draw everything in pencil before they even touch a marker. They are perfectionists (when it comes to their artwork, not their writing). They will take three days to create the same stick figure drawing that takes them 20 minutes on the computer. Paint has a handy-dandy undo button and an eraser. They feel safer to jump in.
Secondly, it evens the playing field. Nobody is a good artist in Paint, especially if you don’t have a touch screen (Seriously, I challenge you – go try to draw a pig with a mouse in paint. You’ll see). This takes the focus off of the art and puts it on the assignment and the critical thinking involved in the assignment.
Not good enough for you? How about a collaboration reason? I don’t know what it is about the technology, but I’ve seen far more students try to crowd around a computer screen to work together on an assignment than I’ve ever seen fight over a piece of paper. When they draw on paper, the conversation is “You have the best handwriting so you do it” or “You draw the best so you do it.” The computer completely takes this part away and, again, puts the focus entirely on the assignment.
Many teachers are afraid of using technology in their classrooms, or at least that’s what my textbook tells me. I certainly consider myself to be one of those teachers welcoming technology into my classroom. I love it! Schoology is the bomb.com. Googledocs were created by a genius collaborator. Kahoot is the best review game I’ve ever played. But it is true that many teachers fear letting go of paper and pencil.
Perhaps if we just calm down the theatrics and make things a little more simple, more teachers would see the benefits, and therefore, more students would see the benefits.
An excited, technology-using educator