The onslaught of technology for education in the classroom the last few years has been impressive. Many see it as the answer to all things educational, while others fear it as the end of teaching as we know it. Today’s economy is riddled with funding shortages. School systems across the nation struggle to find ways to cut costs while increasing academic achievement. As the conversation about how to do both heats up, technology undoubtedly comes into the cross hairs of the debate. Is it an economical way to ensure equal access? Is it a sorry replacement for teachers? Is it an evil that is dehumanizing our educational experience? Does it really help students’ academic achievement?
In the midst of all this discussion, an example of the proper attitude and use of technology appears. Enter, Canby School District in Oregon. Canby has been using iPod Touches to engage students in the areas of reading and math with great success, including documented academic achievement. For reading, the program utilizes audio recording to help students record reading aloud and then play it back so they can assess their fluency. This approach has engaged students to work hard and has resulted in better reading test scores on standardized tests. This is an example of a simple concept: teachers use technology creatively to help deliver the curriculum in a way that students enjoy and relate to.
It is a beautiful example that illustrates something I’ve been saying to anyone who fears technology as an education killer: “Technology is just a tool. Effective use of technology requires creative educators to use it to deliver the curriculum through the tool. “ Creative use of technology enables more individualized instruction than ever before. Now slower learners can go through the lessons as many times as it takes for them to understand the content. Auditory learners can use audio apps and recording to access and assimilate information like never before. Visual learners can learn the same lessons through visual learning apps. Educators are becoming directors of curriculum through technology rather than just teaching via a podium at the head of the class.
From a technology perspective, the Canby folks were smart with their choices. The iPods are a cost effective alternative to more costly laptops. Truth be told, they are cooler than laptops. Laptops don’t excite or interest kids the way iPods do. That’s why Apple has sold millions of them. They are more economical and portable than laptops. Even the iPad which Canby is now integrating into the process is more engaging and economical than its laptop cousins.
The Canby staff was not only creative in the classroom but also made sure to create a collaborative wiki and blog so that other teachers could share successes and experiences. This is the definition of social media. Wikis and blogs are at the core of social media collaboration. It helps optimize educator efforts and reduces duplication of effort.
I highly encourage our readers to check out the Canby Wiki and Blog. There are some great lessons and direction for educators looking to implement technology for academic achievement. Be sure also to check out the data on the achievement. It is truly amazing.
Congrats to the creative educators and supports at Canby. Well done! Your work is an outstanding example of technology in the classroom. Everyone should take notice.