Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Technology is Getting in Our Way

Over and over again in the past few weeks, this idea that the technology can get in our way keeps coming up. Let me explain a little further...

This has actually been a really exciting and productive school year. We've had several projects going on incorporating the use of new technologies or software that have been introduced including PhotoStory, VoiceThread, and Diigo to name a few.

But, here's what I'm struggling with right now... It seems that these tools have been incorporated into projects at the point where the students need to be using them to support their learning or for creating the end product. In other words, we're not teaching the tool and refining the skills as we go along with smaller, manageable activities. We're teaching the tool as the learning needs to be occurring or as the project needs to be completed. And, because of this, I'm wondering if, when we wait until that point, the technology is getting in the way.

The tool is never the point, of course, but, the processes and skills needed to use the tool effectively have to be taught. How can we scaffold the teaching of those skills in such a way that, when it's time for that "big" project, our students already have an automaticity with the skills to the point where the technology isn't "in the way?"

Kim Cofino already recognizes this need when she writes:

One of my first tips for any teacher wishing to authentically embed technology into their classroom experience is always to start small. It’s easier to build on a simple, achievable idea, than it is to trim down an all-consuming tech monstrosity.
The automaticity with any tool is what helps us to use that tool to support our learning and to create. This is where procedural knowledge comes in. When what we need to learn involves following a specific set of steps in a process, we need to practice these steps to a level of automaticity then begin to apply the use of those skills to new situations. If we begin with "simple, achievable ideas" first, we can provide the scaffolding of procedural knowledge that will help our students become better users of technology in support of 21st century learning.

Flickr photo by Chrysaora