Monday, July 2, 2012

Reflecting and Reminiscing: Am I Ready for the Shift to Technology in the Classroom?

"'re so thick! You're mister thick thickity thick face from thicktown thickannia. And so is your Dad!"

Why thank you Doctor, you always have such eloquent observations.  The good Dr. Who may have been drunkenly talking to a robot, but hey, he could have been talking about my tech skills.  Technology has always felt unnatural to me, something I have grudgingly come to terms with out of necessity. I much prefer days when I can leave my phone and computer behind to go explore my surroundings or immerse myself in tales of feisty maidens and elaborate castles.  I prefer the jumble of voices and hum of a living city to pre-recorded, auto-tuned, rehearsed music pumping through tiny ear buds.  I think iPods and 3-D TVs seem like inventions dreamed up on the set of a sci-fi television series.  I try to act cool, and roll my eyes at my mom when she tries to import pictures on her MacBook. I keep my iPhone at my side like my peers, doing my best to keep up with the Joneses, but I constantly wonder what the heck people do on their phones all the time. Sometimes I think I am 22 going on 82- sounding like my grandpa when I complain about how easy the kids have it these days.  Instead of saying, "I had to walk uphill, both ways, in the snow, with barbed wire shoes (I was thankful to have shoes!) just to get to school," I am saying, "When I was your age, I had to go to the library, find the correct section of the stacks, retrieve a book myself, and learn to figure out what sections were important instead of searching for key terms!"

Is this what the future has in store for our beloved low-tech goods? 

I worry that involving technology will threaten the classroom as we know it.  For some students, this would not be a bad move.  Computers provide instant internet access, camcorders produce instant records for review and analyzing, and Smart Boards allow students to interact with text and images- all these technologies are used by teachers to try to enhance the learning experience of students.  In class, we talked about the use of digital cameras to display student work to the whole class.  The purpose of the picture-taking started as a teacher simply playing with his new camera, but resulted in the realization that students work harder when their work is going to be displayed.  We talked about using computer labs to work on research projects and creating multi-media presentations that allow students to use their creativity.  I know there is sound research behind the claims that technology enhances the classroom experience, but I shrink away from this progress.  Is it really a good idea to have kids' work constantly on display?  Are we as educators failing at our job to provide a safe environment for students by exposing them to the world of cyber bullies and a digital trail that can never be erased?

I'll take a day in the stacks over a day in the computer lab any day.
I hope this class will change my mind.  I want to embrace progress, but I am afraid of losing the experience of old fashioned work- watching the dust dance in a shaft of light, illuminating the worn bindings of the musty smelling books haphazardly stacked on a study table.  One can get lost in that environment, transported to a place where imagination runs free and the mind has to come up with its own images.  While studying in London, I learned to embrace the tech-phobia of the aging OxBridge professors mindlessly strolling through the converted Victorian townhouses that dotted campus.  I have to wonder, does the plethora of information literally at one's fingertips cause us to become reliant on simply modifying the work someone else has already done and conveniently uploaded to the internet?

Until next time,
Philosorapter leaves you pondering.


  1. I completely understand your sentiments about technology. I too have this weird sense of fear when I use technology. When I see the latest gadgets, I wonder what the next generation's technology will be like and I panic. I want my kids to experience a sense of wonder when walking into a library full of books. I want them to know the satisfaction of turning the pages of an old book. I worry that this will be lost in the future and thus wonder what place technology has in the classroom. How do we promote technology but also downplay it? I too hope this class will show me some kind of balance.

    And don't worry, sometimes I think I am 22 going on 82 too : )

  2. Hello Philosorapter! (Love that, ps) I also love how you brought up the way older generations harp on our "younger" and "digital age" generation. My parents always complained about my laziness whenever I couldn't find the remote control for the TV: "When I was your age, I had to walk over to the TV and turn a knob to change the volume! We only had three channels back then!" Blah, blah, blah. But now it's our turn to say it! Very weird. As you said in your post, I also find myself saying, "When I was your age, I had to find a dictionary and actually look up a word from a book, in a library!" Now kids think libraries are all online. There has been a digital shift in redefining resources of knowledge, hasn't there?

  3. I must begin by saying how much I truly love your creative writing!! As a far more pragmatic writer by nature, I am constantly amazed (if not jealous) at those who can so eloquently put into words the descriptive language that flows through their mind.

    When it comes to technology I am definitely weary, particularly when considering the extent to which we have become so completely reliant on the accompanying devices, tools, and resources. I shudder to think of the day when I absentmindedly leave my Macbook at home and am faced to endure a day of, gasp, pen-and-paper!! Like it or not, we have entered a new era of education and learning. No matter how we may feel about it, our students are likely to be worlds ahead of us in this realm. If we want to engage them in ways that are most meaningful to their own lives, we will undoubtedly have to embrace as much technology as our classroom will afford. Just as we roll our eyes at fumbling computer-challenged parents (my own are probably some of the worst!!), we too will face the wrath and frustration of our students if we don't get on board the technology train! (Cheesy analogy, yes...but my gift at colorful language is lacking :-)

  4. Rachel - I once lived in London for a year, and could not help but immediately associate your use of "plethora" with a Monty Python skit I failed to find on YouTube.

    This was the London of 1976-77, when the Queen celebrated her Silver Jubilee - 25 years then, 60 years now? The technology was adequate - as long as you had enough coins to put into the small hot water heater next to the tub, you could have a fast(!) hot shower.

    And at least you seem to reject the omnipresent "music in your ears" so many of today's students seem to be lost without. But I should talk as I listen to Sirius Radio's Spa channel - "New Age" music, as I have a difficult time concentrating with any background noise. One simply has to make use of an appropriate amount of technology.

  5. re: "I have to wonder, does the plethora of information literally at one's fingertips cause us to become reliant on simply modifying the work someone else has already done and conveniently uploaded to the internet?"

    I think I already read that on someone else's blog...

    Seriously, given the sheer number of blogs and the amount of mail in my inbox, I think it's fair to say people are doing more writing than ever before.

    I recently unearthed a box of letters I'd written to my parents in the 80s. I was amazed how many letters there I'd written. Until I thought about how much email I write now. It dwarfs my paper-based output.