The Power of the Preface

This weekend at EduCon 2.2 in Philadelphia, I had a chance to think deeply about what it means to be a teacher in a “technology-infused classroom.” When people think about the relationship between technology and education, they often credit what they see – the blogs, wikis, podcasts – and claim that a classroom is technologically advanced because of the tools. While the tools are exciting (and are definitely a sign that a classroom might be “technology-infused”), they can’t be the litmus test for classrooms.

When I was a classroom teacher at Trinity School, my sixth graders had tablets and used them in almost every subject area. On a weekly basis, prospective parents would tour the school and peek into classrooms. While these visits rarely made me feel uncomfortable, I listened carefully to the parents’ comments as they left my room. Often, they were discussing the use of technology (the tools), and that always bothered me. Now, as I contemplate the true meaning of a technology-infused classroom, I realize there was a good reason I was uncomfortable with their comments. Even in the most technologically advanced classroom, I believe attention should be centered on the student learning (or the collaboration) and not on the cool tech tool. As teachers, we must create environments where outsiders notice the learners and focus on their learning rather than on the tablet or the tools.

In order for that to happen, teachers must create a vision for their classrooms. They must relinquish control of the classroom and empower students to take responsibility for their own learning. They must promote authentic, dynamic learning opportunities through inquiry and discovery. They must teach students to be flexible and nurture adaptability and creativity. They must allow time for reflection. They must encourage risk-taking. [All of this should happen in any classroom – even if the most advanced technology in the classroom is paper and pencil.] And if the vision includes teaching with technology, teachers must seeks to truly understand the power Web 2.0 tools and model that understanding to the students.

In the preface to the second edition of Blogs, Wikis, and Podcasts, Will Richardson provides an important warning to teachers:

“In order for us to prepare our students for what is without question a future filled with networked learning spaces, we must first experience these environments for ourselves. We must become connected and engaged in learning these new ways if we are to fully understand the pedagogies of using these tools with our students. We cannot honestly discuss 21st century learning skills for our students before we first make sense of that for ourselves.”

This is a key piece that many educators miss. It’s difficult (impossible, maybe?) to have a clear vision for a technology-infused classroom without an understanding of the power of Web 2.0.

Which makes me think…

I hope the teachers who read Richardson’s book don’t skip the preface.

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