Value, Caution, and Support

I interviewed a colleague who has taught for seven years in several elementary grades. She currently teaches a Grade 3-4 split and, in recent years, has been an Inquiry-Based Learning teacher. We had sat down for a 20 minute conversation, which I transcribed after. The three words I would use to represent the themes of our conversation would be value, caution and support.

Value

Much of the conversation focused on the interviewees belief in the benefits of technology with regards to learning. For example, she mentions that technology “provides a chance for kids to show their learning in a lot of ways. Without having to be great at fine motor, technology kind of provides a way to lift barriers and allows a lot more kids in, who may have challenges.” Overall, she appreciates the value that technology can add to learning, and the way it can facilitate a variety of meaningful experiences.

Caution

Although the interviewee is convinced of the benefits of technology, she integrates it with critical reflection and caution. She is highly aware of her own context and the young age of her students. She has developed opinions regarding the style of integration she seeks in her class in Math and Science. With her students, she defines the good use of technology to be “any technology that allows them to actively engage with learning. I think it’s best, especially in the early years, when learning has a physical and digital element. Effective technology use allows them to still have hands-on experiences and there is a danger going towards just using technology to show learning.” She continually reflects on the benefit of adding technology to an experience.

Support

She communicates a desire to integrate a variety of new technologies in math and science but does not typically rely on institutional support to help her. She stated that it “mostly feels up to me. Most of what I have done was because of my interest in trying the technology. I’ve heard about it somewhere and just want to try it myself. I think we’re supported in that we get the freedom to try things in class, but I do not find the type of PD offered useful for me.” She has a developed notion of what she would need to help her achieve her goals; “I would say that peer driven PD, that is mixed group, that takes place alongside kids in an actual classroom would be helpful.”

Overall, her conception of good technology use with children connected with this quote from Clements (2002), “the computer offers unique opportunities for learning through exploration, creative problem solving, and self-guided instruction.” (p. 341) She looks for these unique opportunities and critically reflects on her experiences to inform her practice.

Clements, D., & Sarama, J. (2002). The Role of Technology in Early Childhood Learning. Teaching Children Mathematics, 8(6), 340-343. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org.ezproxy.library.ubc.ca/stable/41197828

 

4 comments

  1. Derek,

    I appreciate that the teacher you interviewed took the time to speak about ‘caution’. It is important for an educator to reflect on their own pedagogy and the intent behind why the technology is being used. Your colleague mentions that it is important for her students to be actively engaging in learning while they are using tech and I commend this intention. While I don’t think there is anything wrong with fun, I remember when I was in elementary school, lab time usually just meant we were able to play games (although I do think a lot of learning about how to navigate a computer was learned when were just able to explore).

    Thanks for the post!

    Baljeet

    1. Hi,

      She came across has being very aware of what types of experiences she wants to create for her students in math and science. She was a little less sure of the role that technology should play due to the age of her students. However, she was open to experimentation and critically reflected on her own practice.
      Giving free time on laptops is still a very popular use for the computers in my school, for both students and teachers. The amount of time computers are used for this has definitely decreased since I started teaching. I do agree there is some value, especially when kids are sharing a device.

  2. Hi Derek,

    Your first point about Value is very true. While reflecting on your post and with my own teaching experience, I have noticed how technology has really benefited students who struggle to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding in more traditional ways such as writing or speaking, when given the opportunity to use technology to share what they know. For some of my students with written-output issues, they often dominate in using technology to visually present their ideas while incorporating multilteracies (reading, viewing, music, artwork, etc).

    At the same time, I also think point two is important. Educators need to be mindful that technology should not replace other good traditional methods of teaching and learning. Finding a balance between new and old technology (computer vs. pencil) can be just as rewarding when implemented with a specific goal in mind.

    Thank you for your post.

  3. Hi Cristina,

    I agree. In math, I find small whiteboards are one the best tools to use for certain tasks. I even find that many kids choose using them over iPads when problem solving, which surprised me at first.

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