Thursday, March 25, 2010

Computer Use in the Real World

One of the discussion board posts in my online class has to do with how you manage computers use in your class if you only have one or a few available in the classroom. Many of the students also discussed access to a lab if they had one.

I had a two-fold problem. First, many of these graduate students who are already in the classroom are still using the computer as a reward for students who finish early or behave well. This bothers me because all of our students need access to the technology not just a select few. Our slow learners might be the very students who would benefit the most from a multimedia presentation of a reading or math skill. I also oppose withholding time on a computer from students who work more slowly than others or who are not always the best behaved because I think using the computer can be motivational and helpful for these kids.

Second, too many of my students list computer activities that are nothing more than drill and practice. I understand the need to use Accelerated Reader, but I feel many schools over use it and use incorrectly. It bothers me a great deal that in a classroom with limited computers, one is almost always a dedicated AR machine. I wish more teachers read some chapter books and then took these tests on AR so they could tell my why this is a good way to test comprehension. Also, another big use of limited computer time is to review or remediate standardized test skills. Many, if not all, of the textbook and curriculum companies now market a form of remedial computer program that promises the moon to struggling schools. Again, I can see the need for this and lots of money has been spent on the development and installation of such programs in schools, but what do these programs really teach our students? Most of them are not well designed and are not very engaging for the child. The programs are sold to administrators and teachers on the basis of "individualization" and the fact that the program can generate data reports; this is a feature of the programs but the adults in the building want it to use at data meetings and to fill notebooks for the Central Office.

I am hoping to show my graduate students how to create lessons that are engaging for students that happen to use technology as a tool for learning. I want students to be creating PowerPoints even if they are a little dated, but for some students and teachers these are the only tools they have. I want to see students using video cameras to reenact historical events and to tell a story. I want to see students using a computer and a microphone to create their own podcast where they pretend to be a famous inventor and talk about themselves. I want to see students using the new, free, and engaging tools offered by the Web 2.0 culture on the Internet so they can create their own content and share it with others across their community, state, country and world.

So this becomes my job to show my graduate students the many ways to use the computers in their classroom. Many teachers in the classroom are making the most of what they have and using the heck out of the limited computer technology they have available. Many of them admit that planning time holds them back from using the computer with their students as much as they could. Others point to the lack of time in their school schedule—students can't use the computer if all of their time is used up with triple dipping on remediation, right?

I want to nudge my students into thinking about these things and I guess that is what the discussion board post in my class is supposed to do. I hope to be able to help them find creative and exciting ways to use the computer as an awesome tool to teach their kids how to think and how to love learning.

1 comment: said...

Dr. Fowler,

I guest while in the classroom trying to get students to get involved in the classwork, I did'nt think about the impact of giving the students who complete their work first the opportunity to get on the computer. After, reading this, I would say that some of the slower students probably would have benefited from answering questions to the assignment on the computer. This is interesting.