If we engage students in real writing tasks and we use technology in such a way that it complements their innate need to find purposes and audiences for their work, we can have them engaged in a digital writing process that focuses first on the writer, then on the writing, and lastly on the technology. Troy Hicks, The Digital Writing Workshop, p. 8.
You can call me Snow White. Not because I took an apple from the crazy lady in the woods, and not because I live with the dwarfs (just crazy teenagers), but because I feel like I've been asleep forever. I awoke about a year ago to find all that technology can do for me. It can bring me a recipe in a second, it can help me keep up with family and friends near and far, it can allow me to make a book/slideshow/photo album in seconds. It can get my pictures developed without leaving my house. It can take me into other classrooms and provide enough professional development (amazing professional development) to last a lifetime.
Since the awakening I have switched to a more functional e-mail account, joined social networks, and started following blogs. I've updated my tools to allow me better access. For the last year I've been learning my way around the place again. As I've been learning more about technology, I've been discovering all that is available.
Along the way I've started to realize (ok, maybe I already had realized, but now I'm doing something about it), I need to catch my teaching up to the world around me. This was never more clear to me than when we went on a multi-family vacation in Florida. The house was filled with kids and chatter. The adults surrounded the pool, and the kids started getting out movie cameras and computers. In a matter of hours, they had worked together (ages 6-15) to produce a YouTube video. They planned their parts, shot video, edited, put it together, and sent it off to be viewed by the world in minutes. It was this moment that shouted to me that our kids are way ahead of the teaching we are doing in school.
I am just past the anniversary of my awakening. I'm reading books about technology, developing a diverse learning community on Twitter to hold my hand, and have found a group of people who inspire me and push my thinking. I discovered a community of online bloggers who continually talk about tech and education (and great literacy ones too!).
I've been working to answer the question, "What is available to use with the primary (insert any age level) students in my classroom." However I'm realizing that I need to change my questions I'm asking about technology, but what are the questions I should be asking?
When our tech group meets we look at applications recently discovered as well as those members have used in their classrooms; applications we think have potential for our learners. Our group is diverse (teachers K-5, tech people, media specialists, intervention specialists), but we're always asking if we can use this in our school. I'm always inspired by the experience of these learners, and their unwillingness to accept obstacles.
I know I want my students to be able to choose the technology which helps them to get their message out to others. As primary learners, I know this is going to mean I'm going to have to find time to show them how to use different applications and give them time to explore. I will need to demonstrate, guide and support. I'm going to have to develop their visual literacy skills alongside their reading and writing. It's all about meaning, message, purpose, and understanding. I want to stop thinking about technology as something that sits in its own space in our curriculum, but instead as something that is woven within it seamlessly. I need to broaden my definition of literacy.
So, what are the questions I should be asking? How will I start my year differently? Where will I carve out time to teach about technology and allow for exploration? How will my literacy workshops change as a result? How can I teach content more effectively with technology? How are my students already using technology at home? How can we use technology to help us do what we already do in an easier way? I need to move beyond the "what" question, and I'm thinking you can help.
I'm hoping you'll comment and discuss some of the questions you consider as you think about the use of technology with your students.