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Last month, this article from NPR was spreading like wildfire across social media. Meanwhile, it was simultaneously makings the rounds in my district, so much so that I composed a response for the influx of emails I’ve received regarding it. I thought I’d share and would love your thoughts, too!
Thank you for passing this article on to me. I do have some thoughts I’d like to share and hope you will consider them as well.
First, yes, technology can be a distractor. There is no arguing that. It can be just as distracting for us as adults (and teachers) as it is for kids. If we’re looking at K-12 education as a model for a collegiate experience, then we need to help students achieve tech and non-tech balances. The example given in the article is a highly motivated collegiate setting, which instead of dissuading me from the use of technology in our schools, only reinforces to me the important role we play in establishing good habits.
Further, I see a lot of teachers who create systems and guidelines for students to know when tech is permitted and not. I think by having clear, consistent expectations, students adapt and respect them. One of the best models I saw in an elementary classroom (and could be adapted to a high school setting) was a “red, yellow, green” system. Red lessons and activities were totally non-tech, yellow meant the teacher would indicate what tech/tools to use, green was open to whatever the student needed to succeed at the task.
Students will enter college and the work force with the expectation that they will be able to use digital tools efficiently and collaboratively in a seamless fashion. The work world they enter, and the types of jobs they will have, are not the same as 10 years ago. We can not say, “Well, in the real world…” because their world is not our current world, nor will it be when our students leave our system. And that’s something we should embrace instead of trying to fit our children into the “this has always worked” mindset.
However, most importantly, what this really calls into question for me is the SAMR Model. If a teacher is just substituting tech for an activity, like note-taking as the article calls out, then it won’t make a big impact because it’s a low-level SAMR. Most of the activities called into question in the article are all low-level SAMR. Students are only learning through lecture in the article — something we know as educators is generally more passive in learning. There is no talk of collaboration, engagement, critical thinking, or creativity skills that often come along with exemplary technology integration.
Additionally, the article and study do not account for the learning styles of students (visual vs auditory learners, for example), teacher questioning techniques, and the specific rules in the RCT study. The article mentions but brushes off these variables.
For me personally, it all comes back to HOW technology is being used, not WHAT technology is being used for. This article, written by a psychologist rather than a classroom teacher, only addresses the WHAT.
We work hard in our district to see that technology is used thoughtfully and in ways that add to the curriculum, best practices, and student engagement. Thank you for being a part of that commitment.
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