Within my course on information technologies for learning, we have been looking at the different possbilities for integrating technology into the curriculum. The possibilities are endless and as a friend put it just today – “Sometimes it feels as if we are chasing smoke.” It is hard not to feel overwhelmed by the options. Do you podcast, wiki, blog, take a virtual tour, develop a digital story, webquest…? How do you decide which one is the best option? How do you keep up with the technology and the changing possibilities? Another colleague answered the question today with “You have to make sure you let the learning drive the technology rather than letting the technology drive the learning.”
So how do we get back in the driver’s seat? Integrating technology demands comfort, confidence and creativity on the part of the teacher or teaching team. We need to start with the tools which are the most comfortable, develop our confidence and look for creative ways to use them. Staying in the driver’s seat is aided by asking the right questions when planning for a new area of learning. What do we want students to learn, how can we best facilitate this learning, and finally which technology am I comfortable with that can aid this learning?
I have been working on a blog and wiki project with my husband’s German classes. We chose these technologies because of my familiarity (confidence) with them and because of their ‘affordances’ (Kress Literacy in a New Media Age). Blogs and wikis allow for collaboration between individuals and groups. You can manipulate both written and visual text. Blogs and wikis are excellent tools for language instruction. The language goals were taken from his usual non-technologically integrated program (comfort). We chose to add a wiki (creativity?) to the project to facilitate groups working together and add the ability for on-going editing by the teacher. We are beginning to reflect on the process – what worked, did the students learn the vocabulary and grammatical structures that were the objectives of the project, what parts of the process were made visible through the process, what parts were rendered invisible?
These questions remind me of the questioning toolkit which was developed by James Mackenzie at FNO. As teacher-learners, we need to keep coming back to the essential questions – why are we changing how we teach, who benefits from the change, who loses as a result of the change?
Integrating technology into the curriculum is a necessary part of the new literacy environment. Doing the old stuff in new ways is the first step in becoming new literacy teachers. We will not all become Clarence Fisher in a sudden and dramatic way but I suspect that Clarence’s digital classroom was an evolutionary process and not a flash of lightening. We drive on the familiar road and take a detour now and then into unfamiliar territory. This is how we expand our knowledge, comfort and confidence. We will never see the whole world on our own but as we extend our understanding, we may find that there are others on the same road we are and we can share the discoveries. Clarence Fisher mentioned that on his blog today. His students rely on the work of others to extend their understanding. I need to learn to do the same.