Thursday, January 12, 2012

Consumption vs. Creation

How does your school use technology?  How do you integrate technology in your classroom?

I recently read this post, in which the author spent a bit of time on my soapbox.  As I see it, there are three ways technology can be used in schools.  Today I read this post about a fellow tech integrator who is just plain struggling to bring technology into his lessons in an effective way.

The more I research best practices in technology integration the more I get frustrated.  When I read other people's blogs or tweets, there is a lot of talk about how computers are going to revolutionize the education system.  The advent of the iPad raised this talk to a whole new level... so it would seem.

I just went to the App Store and hit the "Education" category.  Top six results sorted by relevance were... Color Mix HD (Fairy Princess), Color Mix HD (Dinosaur), If you're happy and you know it, Monkey Preschool Lunchbox, Math Puppy - Bingo Challenge, and Timmy's Preschool Adventure.  Raise your hand if any of those title get you excited to go to school tomorrow.  Next, I merely typed "Math" into the search window.  My top six results were mainly drill and practice apps. Math, Math (R), Motion Math: Hungry Fish, My Math Flash Cards App, and Motion Math Zoom are all some form of drill and practice.  I'm pretty sure that my school didn't spend thousands of dollars so my students can learn their math facts.  My mom spent a buck or two on index cards and few minutes to write it all down for me to learn my facts.

I was intrigued by the first result though.  It's called... Math..  (No, that double period is not a typo.  The name of the app is Math., and the other period is the end of the sentence.)  I installed it on my iPad, and it looks good. They work you through concepts step by step and have video accompaniment too.  Not a bad thing... but still a consumer product.

I may have rambled a bit getting to this point, by I do have a point.

My research is turning up two distinct categories.
1.  It's all focused on consumption products. I'm not poo-pooing consumption, but do we teach higher level thinking through these products?  Kids spend most of their life consuming technology: TV, video games, and music.  Do we need to overload them in school too?  Do we need iPads to do what my mom did with index cards when I was 10?
2.  "These computers are going to change everything!"... but very little practical application to go along with it.  There is a large group of educators out there who are itching to change the educational system and rightly see these electronics as the means to get there.  We all know that these tools can do something special we could not dream of when we were kids, but very few are giving practical suggestions of how to get there.

This summer I got my first iPad and started in on Twitter.  It wasn't long before I found @coolcatteacher and @thenerdyteacher.  I love following them because they give practical suggestions of what they are doing in class and how they integrate technology.  However, they teach high school, and I'm in upper elementary.  I'm still struggling to find someone in my grade level who is using these tools to do cool things (creation tools, not consumption tools).

So, here's my promise.  I'm going to keep plugging away.  I'm going to find ways for my students to create using iPads, and I'm going to post those projects here. If you or a friend are on a similar quest to use project based learning and creation apps in the upper elementary classroom, please send them my way.  I would love a buddy to bounce ideas off of. Imagine what we could do collaborating together.  If you stumble across this post and you realize that we're barking up the same tree, please send me your blog address, twitter handle, or facebook friend request.

I originally wrote this post over a week ago and stopped since it sounded so obnoxiously cocky.  I went back today and deleted whole paragraphs and tweaked a few things.  Please don't read this and think that I'm promoting myself or what I'm doing.  I'm just showing my frustrations and struggles to find what I'm looking for out there.  Instead of this blog being self-promotion, I'm getting my voice out there trying to find some sense of community so we can learn and grow together.

Thanks for listening to me ramble.  I'm not even sure if I ended where I started with the title, but I feel better now.  


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