Worth the Hype or Not? By Martha Lopez

Recently I had to review board policies that had to do with filtering library curriculum, and I realized that we soon had to pass a new process review for digital readers.  More and more books were disappearing from the bookshelves being replaced by e-readers.  Our district recently purchased 1600 Chrome Books to use for the SBAC Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and invested additional funding in applications that would increase students’ depth of knowledge.  With all these e-readers available to students on multiple devices, students are quickly replacing books with kindles and smart phones.

At a recent conference for digital educators, I attended a workshop where students understanding of the curriculum is now being measured instantly via a digital formative assessment tool.  Traditionally, students were asked to raise their hands or give a signal for checking for understanding; now students can “check-in” digitally and anonymously via their device of choice.  The teacher can simply assign accounts to different classes and allow students to display their understanding of any content immediately.  I think students today are so used to receiving instant feedback on anything they search for, so teachers have to conform to the new learning methods that this generation has grown up in.

Although I don’t agree with texting as the most popular form of communication, it has become the communication avenue of choice for students.  Effective and dynamic teachers have learned to tap into the world of texting by having students sign up to multiple smart phone services.  Teachers that frequently use technology have captured the attention of their students by assigning them homework on social media and tapping into forums that are permitted by their LEA, Local Education Agency.  At the risk of breaching policies, some teachers take the risk and use social media because they foresee that students are not going to easily give up participation in this digital culture.

Digital learning is not a trend.  As we learned in Fullan’s book Stratosphere; the integration of technology is aligned with the pedagogical practices that educators have to adapt to.  Although there is still a challenge on integrating technology into the classroom and convincing educators to use technology just like we traditionally use a book.  Teachers are still unfamiliar with a “flipped classroom” and the great onset of a learning revolution.  Simply navigating Common Core State Standards and all the digital devices and applications coming into the classroom setting is overwhelming. The educational professionals fail to see  that managing digital tools is easier than it is believed.  DuFour describes PLC or Professional Learning Communities that have changed how teachers deliver instruction.  For many years, school districts followed a factory model where they ruled how teachers needed to teach in a classroom lacking collaboration and student engagement.  Today, OPLC’s, Online Professional Learning Communities, exist where students engage one another in a peer-to-peer setting to collaborate in different content areas.  Tutorials, videos, chat rooms, learning forums and blogs have outpaced the traditional classroom and most teachers see the need for a change.  Standardization and uniformity continue to be characteristics of a learning environment, but teaching professionals realize the need for training in instructional technology.

Is technology worth the hype?  Definitely!  I have personally had to disseminate statistics on studies done on student’s learning progress and the eminent impact instructional technology has on them.

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