In my (Clare) literacy course (at the graduate level) this past year I gave my students options for their final assignment. It had to be a “product” and could take any form. Many chose to use digital technology (e.g., Powtoons) while others did artistic presentations (e.g., original painting, scrapbook). Ashleigh Woodward chose to start a blog. It is truly terrific – here is the link to it. http://educatorscollection.blogspot.ca/?view=classic
I think that Ashleigh is a natural blogger. I love her range of topics: 20 books to read in 2015, bullying, books about residential schools, Three Ring (a program designed for teachers to use when collecting evidence about student learning) …
Here is one of her blogs:
My grandma was a teacher for many, many years. She taught all over public schools in Ontario and Quebec, every grade K-8, and spent many of the final years of her career in special education classrooms. My three great aunts were also wonderful teachers, as was my great-grandma – all on the same side of the family. Times were different, teaching was different – but some things were surely the same. When I think about their careers, though, I’m left with a burning, frantic question.
How did they teach without the internet?!
Can’t spell a word I want to use? Apple’s dictionary program. Want to share files with a colleague? DropBox or AirDrop. Need somebody to cover my yard duty? Group email. Want my students to meet and interview an MPP? Skype. Stuck for a graphic organizer or a primary PE game? Pinterest. Need general information or want to find a good math game? Google. Want to get some interactive map work going? SmartBoard. Want to get my students watching some videos about the nervous system? QR Codes and iPads. Need to gather instant feedback as we prepare for a test? Smart Clickers. Shared writing as we practice quotation marks? Laptop and Word. Inputting marks and generating grades? GradeKeeper. Writing and publishing report cards? Trevlac. Posting class field trip forms and reminders? Whipplehill website.
… I could go on, and on… and I probably already have overshared. I didn’t even touch on YouTube, PowerPoint or social media!! There’s no denying how the word wide web has allowed us to connect with other educators, around the world, to share ideas, resources and strategies. Look at Teachers Pay Teachers! That’s an entire other blog post in and of itself. All these resources are out there and available to anyone who knows that search terms to use, and who is willing to spend some time and possibly a little bit of money.
This brings me to my point. Grandma would have considered all the students in her class, and created assignments, lessons and tasks for them to complete, from scratch. They were tailor-made, in many cases, likely using a textbook as their base. While we pride ourselves on moving away from textbooks in an effort to differentiate our students’ learning, I worry that printing booklets from TPT or showing instructional videos is merely repurposing the textbook.
My view, for what it is worth, is that technology is a tool to help us, as teachers, deliver content, and to help our students demonstrate their understanding. It is not a catch-all of worksheets to be printed and distributed without purposeful instruction, meaningful learning or engaging inquiry. Technology can support us in our teaching, in our ability to meet the needs of the students in our classroom, but it should not be the only place we turn to for Monday’s lesson. I think that in Ontario we still have a lot of creativity and “craft” associated with our profession, as we do not follow the scripted, step-by-step lessons mandated by many school boards in the States, and this is to our students’ immense benefit.