It’s back to school-work in this 101st post, answering the questions “What are your concerns about using various internet technologies in your teaching practice?” and “How can you alleviate these concerns?” (Ah, “alleviate,” I like that word.)
I made my first webquest for class this week. It was a lot of work, but at least half was just busywork (is that a complaint or relief???), the typing and copying-pasting of links and hunting down web sites that you know are there and proofreading and tweaking and going back to put in missing links and re-arranging the order of pages… all the work that comes with making any set of web pages, especially a set of pages based on a lesson created a year and a half ago but posted to a web site that has since disappeared. (Apple blogs, you forsook us with no warning. Fie on thee. But at least the result was that the IT staff let us go back to WordPress, my first and more flexible love!) The shiny new WebQuest is a lot better organized both web-page-wise and learning-direction-wise than the lesson of 18 months ago.
In the midst of all the scurrying, two concerns that are never terribly far from my student-related-web-using mind were brought again to the forefront. One is simply the Great Firewall, which means some sites are blocked and some won’t display properly. Even if we were allowed by the administration to use Google or Yahoo Image Searches with students, they generally returns empty boxes and sometimes return inappropriate images. That brings up the second concern, finding appropriate sites to use.
Some of the alleviation I need has come through our own school library. The library has some free and some purchased databases that we can search. Just last week the head librarian came to the Elementary staff meeting to fill us in on some features that are not being taken full advantage of. I hadn’t even realized we had access to things like this! I need to go and digitally explore them so that I will know how to do so in the future.
Another concern with using technology is that students won’t be able to use it at home. In the past, there were always a few who couldn’t finish an assignment at home because they didn’t have the internet. Since we started using Edmodo, however, all of the students have done at least one assignment at home online. I hadn’t even realized it until typing this blog post – that means all 25 (both third grade classes together) have internet access at home now! I don’t know if assigning homework on a web site like this, after helping them sign up and use it at school, was the push their parents needed to let their child use the laptop, or if the last few non-internet-users had finally gotten internet sometime recently but before we started using Edmodo.
And finally, there is the concern that the technology will take more time instead of being a tool to help students learn more/equally efficiently. With such young students, just asking them to type something instead of write it multiplies the required time by at least 3, and that’s not counting the time to walk to and from the lab (if they’ll all need to use the computer at the same time), log onto the computers, and start the word processing program.
To some extent, the way to alleviate this concern is to go ahead and slog through some of the slower work, so that they learn to use and think of the technology as a tool, and one they are skilled at using (at least skilled to an appropriate third-grade level). The slogging-through assignments should not be JUST to learn the software, though – for instance, not teaching them to type a paragraph by saying “Press the tab key. Now hold the shift type a capital letter and pretend to type some words.” – but instead they should be part a meaningful, integrated lesson. One that can survive some slogging.
And sometimes the teacher will simply need to accept that the flashy technological way of doing things is not the way to go for a particular assignment.