As depressed I was yesterday about learning of the disconnect between what I thought I was doing in the classroom and what I was actually doing, I am as encouraged today to learn how to improve the classroom experience for my students.
I have learned that incorporating technology is messy. We try things and sometimes they are disappointing: projects don’t save, file types are incompatible, connection issues can derail an entire day’s lesson, interfaces can be difficult to navigate, subscriptions we thought were free end up only being trial subscriptions that end.
As I walk the path of improving my classroom practices, I realize that this path that seemed straightforward from far away actually has many twists, turns, and dead-ends. As in Robert Frost’s poem, the path diverges in some places and I feel like a pioneer if I take the road less-traveled. But this path can also be perilous – kids sometimes don’t understand why they must take control. They can be resistant to change. They may still cling to their bad habits of putting in the least amount of effort. And so can teachers.
But one thing I am learning on this journey is that it’s never too late to start over, to try again, to move in a different direction, to discover a new path, to move forward slowly, or anything else.
Sorry for the mixed metaphors, but this sums it up best to me: we aren’t married to technology; it’s more like a dating relationship. We aren’t even seeing each other exclusively. We can leave and come back. We can try other things instead. We can use technology with other strategies at the same time. (Just don’t let it catch you. It can get jealous.) I used Pear Deck today to gather some feedback about the changes in my class and, although criticism does hurt, it helped me to focus on what I can change.
For example, students seemed to prefer a mix of traditional teaching and technological inquiry learning. They generally wanted teacher structure and deadlines (surprise!) as well as a teacher consistently in the classroom. (I thought they liked having subs!) They overwhelmingly missed our procedures: a daily warm-up, Thursday Discussion Day, and Free Reading Friday with Book Chat. (Though none mentioned missing the weekly Article of the Week or vocabulary assignments.)
I’m not sure yet what I will do about this. Perhaps I will compromise and do a little of both. Part of me believes that they are uncomfortable with change and they say they do not like inquiry learning because they want to be spoon-fed and not have to do as much. Some even said they liked the old way better because they didn’t have to do anything. Thinking is hard. So many students (and adults) are resistant to thinking for themselves because it is often easier to just accept what you are told, it is often more familiar to have a mechanical method of teacher gives lecture-students takes notes-teacher tests students. But what are students learning? What if they aren’t interested in the subject? Shouldn’t they still learn something useful – how to support their statements with facts, how to read a text closely, how to work with others in a collaborative group, how to solve a problem with trial and error, how to learn a new app or resource independently?