Am I the Barrier to My Students’ Full Tech Integration?

I have been integrating meaningful technology into my classrooms since 2010, trying my hardest to find tools that would help my students find an audience, spark their passion, and find their voice.  I wouldn’t call us tech infused, I don’t use a lot of tools, but the ones we do, I love.  And yet…I cannot help but feel that sometimes I stand in the way of my students and the technology they use.  That sometimes the parameters I set up hinder rather than grow.

It is not from a place of fear, I am all for technology and using it well.  It is rather from my own ignorance.  Often I don’t t know what I don’t know.  Often I don’t know whether a tool will work for the thing we are doing.  Often I get a little scared, wondering whether they will be able to be successful if they veer off the beaten path.  Often I assume that I have to be the expert and this should know everything and have all of the answers, giving all of the permissions.  But the big thing is; I have forced myself to recognize this and boy, did it make me feel uncomfortable.

How often do we as teachers let our own fears stand in the way of what we “allow” students to do?  How often does our own lack of knowledge of a tech tool (or anything for that matter) prompt us into saying no, rather than yes?  How often do we dismiss rather than invite?

So the next time we propose a project, how about we ask students what tools they want to use?  What tools do they already know?  Rather than rush into creation take a day to explore tech tools that may benefit all.  Have students teach each other.  Share your own knowledge.  Open up your classroom and show your own place as a learner.  Acknowledge that perhaps tech scares you, or perhaps trying a new thing leaves you worried about time line.  Perhaps you are not sure a tool will work or that the students will get it.  So what?!  Embrace this fear and allow it to push you forward, rather than hold you back.  Let students see that their ideas, voices, and prior knowledge matters.  And not just to make them feel heard but to change the way learning happens within our classrooms.

Technology tools surround us, with more being added every day.  We cannot keep up.  We cannot be the only experts.  If we truly have a community of learners in our classrooms then students’ knowledge has to be embraced.  So don’t say no when a child asks if they can use a new tool.  Say yes.  Embrace the fact that you may not know it and learn along with them. Admit your own fear, admitting your own lack of knowledge will only show students the power of doing just that.  Be a learner with your students every day.

I am a passionate teacher in Oregon, Wisconsin, USA,  who has taught 4th, 5th, and 7th grade.  Proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children. I have no awards or accolades except for the lightbulbs that go off in my students’ heads every day.  First book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classrooms Back to Our Students” can be purchased now from Powerful Learning Press.   Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” is out now from Corwin Press.  Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

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One thought on “Am I the Barrier to My Students’ Full Tech Integration?

  1. Love this post, Pernille- thanks for sharing it!

    It reminds me of a discussion I was having with a colleague earlier this year about the different levels of specificity we as teachers can pose an assignment to students (and why we would do so):

    – “Use iMovie to make a movie trailer for the novel you read” buries the lead to an extent. What is the purpose of making the movie trailer? What do I hope to see that the students understand?

    – “Summarize & synthesize the main points and themes of the novel you read by creating a movie trailer using iMovie” brings the purpose out to the forefront (which is helpful) though still makes all the choices for the student. It is written to a level of specificity that would only be appropriate if “how to use iMovie” was an intended learning target for the class.

    – “Summarize & synthesize the main points and themes of the novel you read by creating a movie trailer using a movie making tool of your choice (and here are some examples – do you know others?)” gives kids choice of movie-making tool (which opens it up a bit), though is still a bit limiting in that it assumes that a movie trailer is an intended learning target.

    – “Summarize & synthesize the main points and themes of the novel you read – here are some potential ways to do so, along with some tools that would help with each approach (and if you have other ways in mind, let me know)” really seems to open up the level of choice of ‘how’ while keeping the ‘why’ right out in front. It also seems to allow for the kind of collaborative exploration that you describe in your post.

    I’ve been meaning to type this out for a while – will likely use this comment as a springboard for a blog post that’s been meaning to make its way to the surface for a while now. Thanks again for sharing your thinking with us!

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