What should be the purpose of technology?

I have been doing a lot of thinking about the purpose of education and more importantly why do we do what we do. Technology is one of those things that I question. I often wonder why we use the tools we use? Are they used to be helpful? Are they used because we saw it at a conference or on Pinterest? Do we use them because a child has asked to try it?

For me it doesn’t matter what type of technology you are using but more why are you using it? This year we have used Dash and Dots to teach coordinate grid systems to grade 1’s, we have to use Makey Makey kits with the grade fives and sixes to discuss electricity and the idea around the inquiry process, and have even started to dabble in Microbits to help students with space and coding. All of these ideas are great (at least in my opinion, but I am a little bias). However, it isn’t the tool per se but what that tool has allowed the classrooms to do. For me, technology is an extension of learning. It allows me to do things with my classroom that I couldn’t do in the past. Let us take a look at the Makey Makey:

For this lesson we wanted the students to learn about design thinking and the inquiry process. For this, the students learned what Makey Makey was, considered an audience and then made a game, or a device for the audience to interact with at the Halloween fair. At first, some of the projects didn’t work out as planned but then the students did more research and revised their thoughts and ideas. Now Design thinking and inquiry isn’t new. It isn’t even something that needs to have the technology but what the Makey Makey kits allowed was for them to have an interesting purpose and also create something that would be interactive and fun. At the same time, they also learned about coding, logic, teamwork and the purpose of our lesson design thinking. 

I mentioned the Dash and Dots. For these students in grade 1, they were learning about directions. Directions can be taught by having them move around the room and learn left and right but instead, we decided to play a game called capture the kingdom (I got this idea from Jacob Lee off of Youtube). So now students are interacting with Dash and learning their directions at the same time learning to subitize, add simple numbers and work collaboratively. It was also a great introduction to coding. 

Both of these examples show that technology is great but it really is the purpose behind what we do as educators that matters.  So as you read all these great ideas or look up information about the latest tool to use always think about this, what is my purpose and will this (insert technology) be helpful to extend the learning of my students. 

Love to hear your thoughts on this.

We have always done it this way

I have recently been thinking about this phrase, a lot. The main reason is that I feel like as teachers we believe that this statement is true and yet the system we teach in continues to do things a certain way and to be fair hasn’t really changed since its inception.

I have been watching the documentary “Most Likely to Succeed”. The writer of the documentary mentions that he looks at his children’s reaction to school and tells them that one day this will all be worthwhile. However, the more he has invested in the documentary the more he has started to realize that the things he says about school are slowly becoming a lie.

The documentary states that “Most children today will grow up not being able to find a job.” For the most part, our parents grew up, learned facts and were able to settle into a job. Now students go to school, then to university and may not even get the job they want. Even worse they may end up with a job they didn’t even need to go to school for.

As I said, school has been about learning facts, given by the teacher. Those facts are assessed and then given a mark to show the students how well they have learned. Sure we have moved the aesthetics of school (e.g. groups, changed the furniture, we even have more technology) but the fundamental ways in which “school is” are still ingrained in our system.

I asked this question on Twitter:

Just doing some thinking. What is one thing you have changed/reevaluated in your practice and wonder why you ever did it in the first place? #edchat #Peel21st #loguefos— Jonathan So (@MrSoclassroom) February 4, 2019

Responses ranged from asking more questions, giving marks, waiting to the end of the learning process for assessment, to even more ideas around stickers for rewards, reading booklets. It showed me that there are things that teachers are thinking and changing.

For me, my greatest change was when I moved to a gradeless system and gave more authority to my students. I saw a huge growth in my students but more importantly, I saw students take charge in their learning. They weren’t there because it was something they had to do or told they had to attend. They came to school because they wanted to be there.

The world is an amazing place and school needs to honour that amazingness. For me, School needs to be a place where students want to be there, where they want to learn and explore.

I am not saying let’s throw the baby out with the bathwater but more let us rethink why we do the things we do. The major problem is we are teaching students information that we don’t know if they will need or not. The world is changing faster than we as educators can keep up. The skills we may have thought important need to be reevaluated. But more importantly, as educators, we have to think about the purpose of everything we do.

Interestingly enough I followed up my essential question with this one.

Doing some more thinking. What has been the best thing you have ever done in regards to your teaching practice? #edchat #peel21st #loguefos
— Jonathan So (@MrSoclassroom) February 5, 2019

I loved the responses that I got from this and it truly created some great motivation to continue in education.

I loved how the documentary ended, “With all of the schools, we saw, out of all the truly great innovative thinking, the one common thread was that students seemed to be working on things with a sense of purpose.”

As educators, we need to constantly think about our students. Education is messy, learning is messy and not one way is meant or is best for every student but if we continue to do things for the sake of doing things then we will fail all of our students