What's your focus teaching or learning?

So many times we use the phrase “Teaching & Learning” but really we need to be asking ourselves:

Are we focusing on teaching or learning?

This came up in a discussion with Kim earlier today, (BTW….the two of us in a room for longer than 10 minutes is enough deep conversation to keep me going the rest of the day) that what we are focusing on is not necessary student learning, but instead teachers teaching. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment and take our eye off of what we’re really here for.

As we continue to support teachers using technology tools in their classrooms we need to realize that teachers’ use of technology is not the same as supporting teachers teaching with technology. In these early days I’ve been supporting the use of technology. Answering questions about SmartBoards, Entourage, Office 2008, OSX 10.5, etc. Although it’s important to support teachers in the use of technology it’s much different then supporting teachers teaching with technology.

Supporting the use of technolgy

Supporting the use of technology focuses on the tool itself. Not on the learning or the students. When we support teachers by helping them with a SmartBoard Notebook file, or teaching them some new trick in Office, we are supporting their use of the tool, not their use of that tool for learning. One can easily get sucked into supporting the use of technology full time (such as I have lately) and not make a true impact with technology in the classroom as a learning engine.

As long as we continue to think of technology as a tool for learning we are going to get caught in this circle of supporting teachers use of the tools, rather than focusing on student learning.

Technology as a tool worked when the impact on learning was small. I think of the use of Word or any Office application for that matter. It was a tool that we used to replace a way we had/have always done things.

Technology for Learning is Bigger than the Tool!

Technology for learning is about connecting students to information and using applications that allow students to manipulate data, ask questions and interact with information.

I think of the use of Google Earth…not to study the Earth being round (using the tool like a globe) but instead using Google Earth with an overlay of migration patterns to talk about why people migrate (a lesson I did last year with 5th graders). Then having student interact with data by having them create their own migration pattern, and share that information with others (connecting information) to create an understand of why students in international schools migrate and where they come from.

I am continually reminded of the Marc Prensky article in edutopia where he states the different levels of technology use.

  1. Dabbling.
  2. Doing old things in old ways.
  3. Doing old things in new ways.
  4. Doing new things in new ways.

To me using technology as a tool is still dabbling with technology and not really affecting learning in a deeper more meaningful way….I mean it’s 2008!

When a new technology appears, our first instinct is always to continue
doing things within the technology the way we’ve always done it.

Technology as a tool.

What we’re talking about is invention — new things in new ways.

Technology as a connector to information allows us to look at data, to interact with learning like we have never been able to do before and connect with people, places and things in ways we were never able to do prior to the Internet.

What I find when I talk to teachers it that this is a HUGE jump! Thinking beyond replacement into a world where you can create, invent, and think about information and learning in new ways does not come natural to many educators. (Ouch!)

Let’s focus on learning, let’s focus on creating an atmosphere in which technology is more than a tool, but is an embedded part of our classrooms, our own thinking as we plan lessons, and a gateway to inventive teaching. Let’s stop using technology as a tool and start using it as a way to connect ideas, to create new and interesting way to learn and interact with information in ways that were never possible before. Let’s use technology as a way to make learning meaningful and authentic to learners.

It’s more than a tool….it’s a connection creator!