With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility: Harnessing Classroom Technology

Prompt:  Assume you have your first full time teaching job and the principal tells you that you’ve been selected to pilot the  “1 to 1 Project.”  What are your thoughts about the opportunities and challenges that  presents?

Classroom tech of yesteryear: slate boards and chalk – typically used in 19th-century American log cabin schools

Advances in technology are fundamentally transforming the way students engage with social studies content. The widespread availability of primary documents and inexpensive applications give teachers unprecedented flexibility in creating opportunities for learning. Of course, these opportunities come with caveats. The boundlessness of the internet  requires that teachers balance student freedom with thoughtful curation of content and activities.

The dimension of the one-to-one classroom that is most exciting to me is the potential for student-directed inquiry. At its core, teaching social studies is about teaching students to investigate social phenomena and think critically. Ideally, a social studies lesson requires that student find, interpret, and synthesize data to reach conclusions. Consequently, I feel that one of my chief obligations is to prepare students to utilize the tools and resources that will be available to them throughout their lives. The one-to-one classroom gives me the ability to do exactly this. Instead of providing students with a a single question and a section from a textbook, individual students can participate in the process of finding and supporting answers on their own. Teachers can offer broad prompts and guidance regarding the evaluation of sources, but students ultimately use these activities to hone their own research and critical thinking skills. Further, the kind of student learning data potentially produced in the context of a one-to-one classroom is very rich and can inform more responsive and better-tailored teaching.

The one-to-one classroom brings with it two major challenges. First, teachers must ensure that all students in the class are equipped with the requisite tech skills to participate fully in class. In some ways, more technology makes certain kinds of scaffolding and support easier. For example, software can help ensure that linguistic or sensory differences do not limit students’ ability to participate in lessons. Conversely, students will need to be able to use search engines, word processing applications, and other kinds of applications. Some students will enter the classroom already possessing these skills but others will be new to the technology. It is imperative that teachers have a plan to provide students with everything they will need to fully engage in the one-to-one setting.

Additionally, I suspect that keeping students’ attention will require constant monitoring. The solution probably requires both support from software limiting students’ and careful observation by the teacher. Hopefully, between engaging content, frequent check-ins with individual students, and effective “locking down” of the device, distractions won’t undermine lessons.

 

As classrooms integrate tech infrastructure, the limitations facing teachers are changing. Access to documents or software is no longer a primary obstacle. Instead, the challenge for me will be harnessing these potent resources to maximize student learning. I hope to be fortunate enough to have the chance to explore the possibilities created by the one-to-one classroom as a professional teacher.

Sources: Photo – Doug Coldwell

 

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