Much like Alice, I have a way of falling down rabbit holes. Sometimes I even jump. “We’re all mad here.” Not I. Well, maybe actually I.
Several years ago my school became 1:1. We went from a computer lab and a traveling cart to an iPad or chromebook for every student, k-5. It was amazing and wow, how grateful I felt to be part of such tech-fortune!
As a teacher, I tend not to shy away from change. Technology does not scare me and anything new or unconventional is like Smuckers to me, my jam. So when a shiny cart of 20-something iPads came rolling my way I read a few articles, followed a few hashtags, and I was ready. Both feet in, bells on, let’s go.
I explored a variety of apps to supplement instruction. Apps to use while teaching, blogs for writing, eportfolios, ebooks, emanipulatives, e-everything and programs. All the programs. Programs that claimed they were differentiated, check that box off on my eval. All the problems in the classroom had answers now.
“How do you know I’m mad?…”
“You must be…or you wouldn’t have come here.”
Eventually I realized my students were on a device for some purpose all day long.
All. Day. Long.
I tend to emphasize extremes but this isn’t too far from reality When you start counting minutes and those minutes turn to hours and hours in elementary is pretty much all day.
A supplement meant to enhance became it. All day everyday. The main event. It didn’t happen overnight but it might have happened overnight.
When I go, I go hard. It’s a side-effect of a rather extreme personality.
What followed was general mediocrity. To be fair, the world did not end and my kids did not turn into zombies. My first grade and later second grade test scores did not tank although full disclosure, with how k-2 was tested they would have scored fine either way.
Technology did come at a price. It seemed that overall focus diminished. Handwriting diminished. Collaboration diminished. Spelling diminished. Conversation diminished. Everything diminished.
We had a program for that though. Phonics, vocabulary, comprehension, spelling, math, even handwriting and things to improve focus. We had a program for everything…well everything except conversation…but blogging is the same thing, right?
It took me some time and experience with my own kid more on that later) to see how very wrong I was.
As far as alllll the programs, I didn’t see any significant real life applicable progress on any of them (sure they may have advanced within the program but real life application not so much).
In fact the students did those programs when they weren’t face to face with teacher during small group time and many weren’t doing anything but mindlessly clicking along. In some cases, they were multi-tabbing and sneaking onto other sites. Coolmath and minecraft and YouTube. It took me awhile to catch on to that one but truth is they probably weren’t missing out on much by not doing those programs. Either way, I found myself down another rabbit hole within the rabbit hole.
I mentioned above that the world wasn’t ending…but I did do some damage. It was especially harmful for my ELLs and kids with attention issues.
It seemed like everytime I started to question myself, I looked up a new article or hashtag and recommitted myself to the rabbit hole I so happily had fallen into. Because there’s an article for everything.
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
Here’sthe more later part…
When my son was 2 (almost 3), my parents bought him a tablet for Christmas. When he had this tablet, I noticed his personality changed. He was quiet, less active, more irritable, less creative, and overall less cool of a person. I am not exaggerating.
My son never had a ton of tantrums and he more often than not is joy to be around (yeah, all parents say this but it really is true). The second the tablet came out none of that was true. His biggest tantrums occurred when it was time to put that piece of technology away or when the battery ran out. He was obsessed…I often wondered whose kid he was.
This led me to more critical research on technology for little guys and to be honest, there isn’t much good that comes with it. Article after article, Google search after Google search.
This revelation I had with my own child raised a lot of red flags with what I am doing in my classroom. Obviously a 3 year old is at different place developmentally than a 7 or 8 year old. But still. Developmentally no 7 year old should be on a device as much as my students were on one, even for the coolest most cutting edge educational purposes.
Again, “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
I am still navigating that. I am climbing out of the rabbit hole I wasonce so happily in.
As extreme as I tend to be, I don’t think it has to be either/or. I find a lot of value in many educational tech tools. Whole group lessons have transformed for me with interactive presentations like Nearpod, my kids can create and show off work with apps like seesaw, and their selection of reading material has multiplied exponentially with ebooks.
That said, programs are mostly mindless and the only ones I put my kids on now are those that my district requires. I’ll ask my kids to read real books made from paper, write with pencils, and use real manipulatives.
There are a ton of edtech tools out there. Many are amazing and great. I found that there simply is not room to use them all. I pick and choose just a few and run with that. I stopped worrying about missing the next greatest thing…because the greatest thing doesn’t involve wifi.
“Everything’s got a moral, if only you can find it.”