Thursday, July 4, 2013

Technology in society and in the classroom

As a future educator, especially since the beginning of my educational studies, I've started thinking critically about the skills, knowledge, and practices that are necessary to become an efficient teacher. The practice of classroom organization, however, has never struck me as being overly important until just recently. In one of our classes today, we were asked to draw our "ideal" classroom and specially focus on the technology we would incorporate into our classroom. This seemed fitting since this was the first meeting of our teaching with technology course . This is what I came up with (ignore the scribbled out portion).

Before I give an explanation of the drawing, I'd like to apologize for my artistic abilities. There are five groups of four individual desks grouped together (the squares that look like windows), each group arranged in a pentagon or circular formation around the classroom. Each group of desks includes a tablet connected to a projector (on the group of desks) with a corresponding whiteboard and projector screen (the plain white squares) on a nearby wall. There also two cameras (the two tripods at the bottom of the drawing) in the classroom.

The primary question that influenced my "ideal" classroom was, "How do I create a classroom that encourages collaboration, engagement, and is not teacher-centered?" I began with creating groups of individual desks which will enable students to collaborate in pairs, or in small groups. Also, the circular or pentagon arrangement of the groups allows for large group discussions. Having individual desks will allow for manipulation of desk arrangements for based on needs or just to shake things up. It seems that most professors in the school of education emphasize the importance of collaboration. Collaboration to me also helps develop important skills such as communication, and gives students an opportunity to experience the thought processes of others. Each group has one tablet, projector, and whiteboard/projector screen. This makes it possible for students to present their work for their class to their group and to the classroom. The different projector screens and whiteboards around the class will enable me to teach from any part of the class which will be different from a traditional teacher-centered classroom with the teacher always in the front of the class. Two cameras allow for recording of the classes and group work so I can critique my own effectiveness as a teacher, and so that the students can critique their own work in the classroom as well (at first I thought of putting a camera to watch each group of desks but I thought that would be kind of creepy and students might feel uncomfortable).

I also thought about what I didn't need in my "ideal" classroom. As a mathematics teacher, I didn't really consider including scientific instruments or equipment. Although some physics instruments or other math-related tools might be interesting to have in the classroom. I didn't want a smart board because after using one before, I just thought it was less efficient than using a whiteboard (it took me awhile to write things on it). Any suggestions as to what else I might consider putting in this classroom?

Another interesting thing that happened in was hearing a story about a teacher's problem attempting to figure out how to water a new garden he and his wife had started while they went on a family vacation for a week. He first considered two options:

1. Ask their neighbor he hadn't met yet.
2. Ask one of their friends that may not live in their neighborhood.

Neither of these options were appealing to him because he is a thoughtful person and didn't want to inconvenience anyone. He then soon found a solution. He discovered a device with a timer which you hook up to your water hose, and it will automatically water your garden on the time interval you choose. The problem had been solved. However, he mentioned even though the problem had been solved by the use of this technology, there were downsides to it. By using this technology, it would eliminate the possible relationship that could have developed by going over to their neighbor's house to ask them to water their garden. I have previously heard and thought about how technology can cause a disconnection from the world, but I never specifically thought about how technology could prevent a the creation of a relationship. People generally think of technology as a means of communication and connection, never a disconnection.

After sharing this story with my girlfriend, she told me an example of how children these days are going growing up without developing the proper skills and practices communicating with their voices. She told me about a project in her class where they would have to call CEO's and significant people of companies related to art (she was an art student). When students in her class failed to complete the assignment, the teacher asked them for a reason to explain why. She said that the common response had been, "I didn't know what to say," or "I don't know how to interview someone." Most of the communication used by children (most likely adults too) today in the United States appear to be in the forms of texting, emails, and instant messengers. I didn't have a cell phone until I was eighteen years old and bought one with my own money. Today, I'll go to a mall and see an eight year old walking around with an iPhone 5. I don't get it.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that the common misconception of technology has been that it is advancing society, and is improving every aspect of of life. The truth that I have learned though, is that technology is like a double-edged sword. There has to be careful consideration of the use of technology, and there needs to be a balance of its use especially when applying it to education in a classroom. In the reading that was required for class, it described a study about the effectiveness and use of television and radios in classrooms back in the early to mid 1900's. Although there was an abundance of missing information, the general consensus was that the use of these pieces of technology failed to be effective in the classroom. Technology and its potential in the classroom may present endless possibilities, but learning how to balance and incorporate its use to maximize effectiveness is the current problem that needs solving.

1 comment:

  1. Jonathan -

    I really enjoyed the way you set up your classroom to be flexible. The idea of tables made up of individual desks allows students to move around and rearrange the room as needed for different activities. Different lessons may call for a different arrangement of the room and I like that you thought about this. I also liked that students are sharing a tablet and projector at each table instead of having each student receive his or her own. This way, more students can collaborate and work on projects together.

    Your example of 8-year olds with iPhones made me think about how technology is changing not only our society, but the way we develop socially. When I was younger I had to call all of my friends on the phone after school if I wanted to talk to them or make plans. Now I rarely speak to my friends on the phone and frequently text. Even though I grew up in a vocal world, I feel that these skills have been diminished through technology. It is important to keep this development in mind in our classrooms.