I partner with organizations in helping to understand the changing nature of learning by working together in long-term, embedded professional development that prepares us all for our future, not our past.

Random Thoughts

Do you sprinkle or mix?

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For many schools and educators, technology is like the topping or finishing touch to the curriculum or a project. It’s nice to have, looks good, adds to the overall flavor, but really when you get right down to it…it isn’t needed.

For many this has been the approach of technology, fair enough….as through the 1980, ’90 and early 2000s as schools were putting computers into labs that is exactly what they were. It often was a free time, a time to play some games, or later on spend some time on the Internet. Once and awhile they added that sprinkle to a lesson. A PowerPoint to show learning, or typing your poem rather than writing it. We started with technology as the sprinkles to our curriculum and our teaching.

Over the years however as these technologies have become mainstream in society our view of technology, for the most part hasn’t changed. There are very few jobs that do not require some computer literacy or typing skills. Yet many schools have yet to replace or add typing as part of the writing curriculum. We still view technology as the sprinkles or toppings rather than looking at how we can mix those sprinkles into the batter and make a whole new curriculum. What we need to do is start from scratch and think about how we build a new curriculum that includes these new skills and ideas. How do we add typing as a writing skill and e-mail as a genre any other way.

Until education, educators, schools, and school leaders decide that these new literacy skills must be taught we’re just adding sprinkles. We’re left with some teachers taking time to teach these skills and some not. If technology remains the sprinkles some people will choose not to use them…no matter their color, flavor, or texture.

We do not need a technology curriculum instead what we need to do is get out the blender and mix up a new batter that looks at this new digital era we now live in and decide what are the skills students need. Yes…something must give and deciding what goes is not easy. Personally I can make a case for teaching e-mail writing as a genre or typing skills within the writing curriculum. I can see global collaboration projects fitting in with social studies and science and exposing student to searching, finding, decoding skills in reading. In some cases the skills and concepts haven’t changed we just need to update the tools we use to teach them. In other areas we’re going to have to make some hard choices between what we feel is valuable in a digital age and what is not. Can we get out the blender and create something new? Can education find a way to truly impact teaching and learning to prepare students for their future? We’ll need a lot of blenders and less sprinkles…but a good recipe never needs added flavoring anyway.

I started blogging in 2005 and found it such a powerful way to reflect and share my thinking about technology, this generation, and how we prepare students for their future not our past.

20 Comments

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  9. I completely agree and have felt this way for a long time. When teachers complain that there is no time to add tech to their already packed day, I couldn’t agree more! The challenge now is to show ways to redo old things in new ways with the new tools that are applicable. Everything should be integrated, not just to save time but because it’s authentic, as in life. To me, anything that engages students and gets the job done is the right tool, and tech tools often fit those qualifications.

  10. Thanks so much for this! I can use this. When teachers tell me that technology isn’t needed in their classes I am going to use this post. What I find is that some teachers will mix but most believe that only a sprinkle is needed, if that. As a technology provider,(network admin) I just keep making the tools available as much as possible and hope that some will use them.

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  12. Is letter writing part of the writing curriculum; it used to be when I was a kid? Wouldn’t this cover how to write email? I realize that a few rules or techniques would need to be addressed, but emails are just digital letters, aren’t they?

    • Some people think Twitter is blogging….but how is a blog post anything like twitter. From a thought out blog post to 140 characters?

      There have been many studies done on e-mail and it is not letter writing like we teach in schools.

      – there is no indenting
      – you do not have to start an e-mail with a greeting
      – Research shows that people only read the first 5 sentences of an e-mail. Unless it explaining something in detail they need to know

      – Do we teach students to write 5 sentence thoughts?
      – Do we teach students how to attach, upload, use pictures, and the difference between html and plain text?
      – Do we still teach students to indent?

      Form and content are both important in writing. We are a civilization of e-mails yet we do not teach this type of writing in our classrooms.

      I remember in 4th grade learning to write a check. Do we still do that….is that a skill kids need today?

      How many classrooms still practice cursive writing and yet do not give the same amount of time to typing skills.

      We do need to be teaching tech skills but they need to be replacing the old ways of doing things. I know, I know…it’s tough, it’s what we know, what we think they still need. But is it?

      We had this conversation the other day at our school on where students should be learning to bold, underline, center, etc in the curriculum.

      These are form factors of writing. Where did we use to teach these? I remember learning to write a formal letter….and I’m not saying you shouldn’t but should you be learning how to type it instead? Learn how to right justify the return address? The form of some of these writings have not changed, but the tools we use to write them are different and are we teaching those new tool skills?

      It’s not all or nothing….but there has to be a balance of both…in my mind anyway.

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  16. I’m currently a college student in 7-12 math education and I couldn’t agree more on the technology aspect. many times I have seen teachers that are not willing to redo their old way to incorporate technology. Many times this hurts us students because when we leave school we need to know a lot of technology for our future careers. Also many times in college they tell us that we need to incorporate as much technology as we can into our curriculum when we become educators, but if the school that you go to isn’t willing to mix in technology into their old way of teaching, then how is a new teacher with many new ideas suppose to make teachers with more experience understand the importance?

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