Sunday, June 7, 2015

Falling for Gadgets and Getting Up

Last week five graduate students and I traveled to Beatrice, NE to participate in the ESU5 Tech Fair.  It was a very successful day and we worked with many teachers in very short sessions. Nick Ziegler was a great host and the event went without a hitch (at least as far as I know).

At the end of the event, I was asked to draw the winners of the door prizes. Nick has arranged for an impressive set of prizes that included screens, printers, iPad, software licenses and more. I agreed to draw for all prizes except for the Interactive Whiteboard. This was the gadget that caught my eye and where I have put all of my door prize tickets.

Despite all of my efforts, I did not win. On the way back, I thought about the gadget and why I was focused on it? It is easy to fall for cool gadgets. You see them in actions or just imagine what you could do with them. It is like getting a present- that sense of getting something cool and starting it for the first time. Laurie calls it the Christmas morning effect. And seeing the gadget I can already anticipate how great I will feel when I open it.

Surrendering to my emotions I forgot to ask the most important question we need to ask about any technology in the classroom: Is it a teaching device or a learning device? In the case it was more a teaching device than a learning one. Now that gadget fever has subsided I also recall that most schools that I have worked with and adapted whiteboards were disillusioned within a year or so. It was simply not worth it and made very small if any gains in instruction. The change if any will come from well-used student devices that are scaffolded for teachers and students.

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