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March 2013 | Volume 70 | Number 6
Readers of EL are likely at different places in their process of integrating technology into their schools, classrooms, and assignments, and have different preferences for which technologies they want to explore with students. But all are likely to have the same goal—to enrich students' learning. Articles in this month's EL share something for teachers at all stages of their journeys.
Teachers who are making their first forays into using technology and online learning—and maybe feeling shaky—might want to consider Catlin Tucker's advice ("The Basics of Blended Instruction," p. 57). Tucker says that plunging in with just a few tech tools and being honest about her need for help led her to become adept at blending online and traditional teaching.
Science teacher Mike Dappalone "weaves technology into the culture of his classroom" to enhance his best teaching practices ("Making Best Practices Better," p.69). He has students research key background and basics about math and science concepts by using Wikipedia and searching the Internet (with minimal guidance). Dappalone explains how one might take advantage of students' skill at "surgical searching" on the net:
In math class, for example, students might … locate and explain how the area of a circle was determined prior to the development of the concept of pi before studying the unit circle. Or history students studying the early U.S. presidents might spend a few minutes searching for information about a current event that has some relationship to the issue of presidential power. (p. 71)
Do you let students use Wikipedia or student-directed online searches as part of lessons, rather than presenting all information by lecture? Could you try some of Dappalone's techniques to spur students to drive their own learning in class through online research?
Dappalone recommends using screencasts—recorded lectures or demonstrations that teachers find online or create themselves—in both in- and out-of-class work. How might you incorporate screencasts into your teaching to engage kids and differentiate instruction?
William Kist's article, "New Literacies and the Common Core," (p. 38) explores how teachers can use new media—like videos, blogs, podcasts, and wikis—to strengthen the close reading skills required by Common Core. If we're to prepare students to take part in a "wired world," Kist claims, we need to ensure that students get good at navigating new ways of reading, including those that meld visual and audio media with text.
Consider one of the assignments that Kist recommends that English teachers adopt. He primes students to read printed texts more analytically by first guiding them to "read" a video clip more closely, concentrating on just one feature or effect, such as the lighting or mood-setting music in a film, then directing them to read a written passage closely, looking for key elements like metaphors.
Kist says teachers need to talk to students about the challenges screen-based writing presents, such as how to handle hyperlinks or layouts. Ask what differences students see between traditional print texts and online texts—both as readers and writers. What do they like about reading texts online? What do they like—or find hard—about writing for online-only venues? For print venues?
Will Richardson, a long-time commenter on how quickly maturing technology is changing schools, says the technological explosion "raises important questions for education leaders that speak directly to the way we think about the potentials of technology in school." ("Students First, Not Stuff," p. 10). Leaders' questions concerning technology, he claims, shouldn't be about which hardware or software to buy, but about how schools need to change to address the needs of modern learners.
Copyright © 2013 by ASCD
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