Tech In The Classroom: Boon Or Bane?

As I went into my building last week for some pre-first-day-of-school professional development, I was quite excited to see that my Interactive White Board (IWB) was being assembled by our district’s tech staff. Every teacher in my building will be receiving an IWB along with an Elmo document camera at some point in the first couple of weeks of school*.

I consider myself to be a fairly tech savvy person, so the prospect of having so much tech at my fingertips in my classroom was a little intoxicating. My mind swirled at the possibilities. Group composition activities (thanks to Pyware’s Music Writer Touch software), random rhythm generators, my entire concert band/orchestral/jazz music library available during class…this was going to be fun.

And then this article started circulating, and I started thinking.

For those who haven’t read it, the article talks about a district in Arizona that has invested $33 million in technology since 2005, and has seen its test scores stagnate while ‘traditional’ districts show improvement.

The big question we need to ask when implementing technology in our classroom is “Why am I bringing this into the classroom? Am I using tech for tech’s sake, or am I using it as a tool?”

If you can’t really come up with a valid reason beyond “because it’s cool” for that question, then you may want to rethink the use of technology in your classroom.

You may also want to change tack if you expect technology to do the job of teaching in your place. As wonderful as technology may be, it’s no substitute for a creative teacher who understands how to engage their students.

Technology for the sake of using technology is also a potentially dangerous path. What happens when the allure of the shiny new toy wears off?

Technology is meant to aid in the teaching process, not replace it. Last year, I had my jazz band do a group composition project with nothing but their instruments, pen and paper. It was very successful. But, would having a program like Music Writer Touch have made it more successful? I think so. Having our work projected onto a big touch screen will increase participation. Using a program with nice clear notation will make it easier for my students to see what is happening in the piece (because middle school handwriting isn’t the clearest.)

I don’t want this to sound like I’m advocating against the use of technology in the classroom, because I’m not. I just want to make sure that everybody is constantly asking “Why?” so that they can ensure their use of technology doesn’t detract from the classroom environment.

/soapbox

*Before anybody gets bent out of shape over a district spending huge amounts of cash while their teachers take salary cuts, the money for the IWBs and Elmos came from a bond issue passed by our township.

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