[This blog post is in response to the Education Tech Carnival]
The novelty of using technology is starting to wear off. It is not something that is occasionally and magically pulled out of a hat to enrich a lesson. The integration of technology in learning (in this case Spanish) is daily. It still is used to enrich the lesson, but it is not random. Recently a student noticed my name on the bottom of the website we were using, so of course the question was asked: ‘do you create all the activities?’ When I explained that I created or found all the resources that we used – the look on her face was hard to figure out. Amazement, shock, admiration, revolt, curiosity, or hunger because it was the period before lunch … I coouldn’t tell. But it led me down a dangerous thought path – for whom do I spend hours and hours creating and discovering the digital resources?
I do not create for my own mental health. Valuable sleep time is often sacrificed to create review games, especially when the students can complete the activity in 10 minutes. Is the investment worth it? I asked the question of the people that matter: my students. Since we have moved away from the novelty of using technology, they were able to provide responses more meaningful than ‘wow’ and ‘ooo.’ Those simple words (combined with engagement) were motivation to begin using technology. Now I am searching for something more substantial to continue using technology. I need the affirmation that it is worthwhile, the motivation to keep searching and creating.
I created a digital survey before the winter break and gave the students the link. Completing it was optional, but they were slightly bribed with a homework pass. The easy question to ask was what activities do they like. You can see from the chart the types of activities they enjoy doing and that they felt help them learn. Not all the activities are digital, but the highest scoring ones were.
The harder question to ask was ‘what could be done to improve technology use in the classroom?’ There were two main categories for responses of improvement: variety and clarity.
They want additional resources that are not used in the classroom. Since the group of students who responded were doing an optional assignment, I know they would utilize additional resources. I know they watch (an re-watch) videos many times since they sing along with videos the first time it is shown in class. Random side note: I am very grateful that YouTube is not blocked in my district. Teaching topics like el alfabeto would be painful without awesome resources like the numerous videos. Órale, el Alfabeto is the most requested video so far this year. For next year, I will embed even more videos and songs for their personal entertainment.
The second area of improvement was inspiration for reflection. The students said sometimes they are confused by the technology. Just figuring out which digital resource / website they should access requires processing through the possibilities with corresponding task lists: Moodle (LMS), class blog (daily info), techbook (digital textbook), GoogleDocs (notes), school website (links), etc. For the middle school audience (and many adults) this is a lot to remember. It could be an overwhelming process.
Teachers who use technology in the classroom need to remember that we not only write for an audience, but we publish for an audience. Just like they need to understand what they read, they need to know how to navigate or access what is published. Publishing is no longer just print, it is anything created. With all the free online tools, anyone can publish. The list of what can be published is equally open-ended: articles, books, games, art, etc. We might be teaching kids who have grown up in a technological environment, but they are still kids. For new digital tools they need to have the process explained and modeled before many of them can feel comfortable.
The generalized findings from my student feedback survey: yes all the extra effort in preparing lessons is worth it. The students love the technology. I love that they voluntarily play the games or watch the videos outside of class. I might even teach them some searching tips for finding their own enrichment activities and media. Overall, the directions and navigation needs to be simplified so all students can have equal access to learning. These minor changes will allow everyone to be satisfied, students and teacher.