Teaching Truth #7: Bells and Whistles to You May be Same Old to Your Students

Over the weekend, I presented brief (45 minute) sessions about Web 2.0. Now, any of you who are immersed in the Web 2.0 world as I am know that there is no way I can even scratch the vast number of Web 2.0 applications that are out there. I did manage to compress my sessions into 45 minutes (I presented it three times, which made me begin to feel sure I was saying the same things to the same people). You can see the presentation PowerPoint and the websites I covered at the Texas DEN Wiki. I focused my presentation on using Discovery streaming with Web 2.0 applications.

As usually happens to me when I’m presenting, I hear myself saying things I hadn’t planned to say but which actually teach ME something. That is what has led to this blog post.

What I said was this, “Things that seem cool to you are not necessarily cool to your students – chances are they’ve already seen it.”

One of the things I hate the most is when I hear or see teachers using technology in their classroom for the sake of using technology in their classroom (you can read my NECC post where I came up with and presented my RICE acronym). I believe that using technology as “fluff” can be far more damaging than not using technology at all. That said, teachers must really look at the technology, say “is this the best way to deliver this instruction?” and know what they are doing. Sometimes that means that a tech tool good for use at the beginning of the school year may lose its relevance later in the school year when content and mastery have (hopefully) reached a new level.

My bolded comment above simply means that we have to realize that when we go to professional development or technology conferences and we discover some new, really cool technology tool to use, what seems really cool to us is something your students have probably already experienced in some form. Your students have grown up with cool technology tools in the palm of their hands . . . literally. They want to see relevance in what they are doing and can spot a “babysitting” task before you finish giving them instructions.

You deserve to have a classroom that utilizes a good balance of interaction with your students and the use of technology. Your students deserve to learn in an environment that stretches their potential and gives them opportunities to discover new things. Don’t bog them down with bells and whistles.


3 responses to “Teaching Truth #7: Bells and Whistles to You May be Same Old to Your Students

  1. You raise a very important truth. The problem, I suspect, is that teachers have difficulty catching up. With a plethora of daily responsibilities just to teach (IEPs, GIEP, Service Agreements, State Assessments, duties, clubs, bi-weekly reports, multiple district initiatives, new district reporting systems–and I know I am missing something), teachers find it hard to try to level the playing field with their digital natives (not possible, I think, for most educators). I agree with your blog point completely, which is why I engage my students as teachers and learners. I go to them to determine what they do know and how I can harness that knowledge into relevant, meaningful learning. Still, I would have to admit, I miss the mark. But I keep trying, and using students and their knowledge really generates a positive impact.

    Having said all of the above, I must tell you that at least in my classroom, there are many differentiated levels of digital natives, and more students than I would have assumed who are not digital natives at all. So, sometimes I overwhelm and underwhelm simultaneously. But your blog is a timely reminder as I prepare to begin yet another year, buoyed with hope and enthusiasm from the DEN LC National Institute.

  2. RJ, you also brought up a great point – even as I typed the blog post I was thinking in the back of my head that many of my students WERE seeing those things for the first time, while others were not.

    We do have to differentiate even in the area of technology expertise, which can be a very tough thing to do. Any of us who have presented at conference where a handful were tech saavy and the rest had never even read a blog know how difficult it can be to balance between getting people on board the tech wagon and challenging those who are already hanging on.

    Thank you for your comment!

  3. Every time I talk to someone about using tech in my classroom I make sure to stress it is about using the correct tool for the job. I happen to like to record much of what is done in my class and put videos or pictures on the class blog.

    If you look at the blog you might get the impression that we are constantly using some form of technology. The truth is that I am constantly using technology in the classroom, my students are only using it where I deem it appropriate.

    Although my students do much more using technology than any other classroom in my building, that is not the focus of my class. First I am a science, reading, comm arts teacher. Next I am a tech implementer.

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