Greetings, fellow EC&I 833ers.
Before I dive into my first blog post, I must admit that I am really looking forward to taking part in this blogging venture. To date my grad classes have primarily focused on relatively “dry” writing so I’m very much looking forward to a change of pace!
Upon reading this week’s articles, I found myself taking a rather nostalgic look at my own experiences with educational technology. My very first memory of technology in the classroom was when I was in the first grade. There was a game on the Commodore 64s in my school’s computer lab that required the user to type a word that appeared on the screen. This had to be done in a timely manner because an alien spaceship was slowly descending as you typed. If the spaceship landed before you completed the word? Game over. Truly a thrill a minute.
From there the Apple craze took over our elementary school with Mac-Classics replacing the Commodore 64s. At this point, two games stand out to me. The first one being the infamous “Number Munchers” where basic math skills were reinforced and success was rewarded in the form of a cheesy cartoon.
The second game was “Lemonade Stand” where I first learned the concepts of supply/demand and capitalism (as an 8-year old, I took great pride in charging construction workers $5 for a glass of lemonade on a hot summer day).
December 25th, 1993 proved to be a major technological turning point as it was on this morning where I got the internet (on a side note, I can’t recall a Christmas gift that I’ve gotten as much use out of as this one!). The internet opened up a world of endless possibilities with search engines such as Yahoo, Alta Vista, and Lycos providing me with a gateway to all kinds of information (both good and truly awful).
From an educational perspective, computers continued to provide me with many valuable skills as I progressed as a student. Typing skills were enhanced thanks to “All the Right Type” while my creativity (or lack thereof) could be on full display thanks to “Print Shop Deluxe” and “Microsoft Works” as well as website builders such as “Angelfire” and “Geocities”.
So what’s the point of this meandering trip down memory lane? Well, for starters my experiences with technology have helped shape both the person and the educator that I am today. One of the quotes from this week’s readings that struck a chord with me was right at the beginning of Postman’s “Five Things We Need to Know About Technology” article:
“Technology giveth and technology taketh away”.
I took this quote and applied it to my own personal context. As stated earlier, technology has helped provide me with many valuable skills. Do I owe my self-proclaimed “elite spelling skills” entirely to the aforementioned spelling game on C64? Probably not. However, what that game did was provide me with an engaging way of honing my spelling. The threat of aliens landing on earth was much more engaging than daily spelling tests with either my teacher or my parents. Same thing with other educational games such Number Munchers, Lemonade Stand, and another old favourite of mine – Sim City. All of these managed to engage me in ways that textbooks and direct instruction could not.
So if technology has “giveth” where has it “taketh away”? From a personal standpoint, the first thing that comes to mind is that time spent playing non-educational video games (something that I still do to this day) probably could have been better spent learning practical skills such as anything to do with home ownership (something that I’m very much paying for in the present, both literally and figuratively).
All of this brings us to the point of this post – providing a contemporary definition of educational technology. For me, educational technology is about taking the technology at our disposal and using it in meaningful ways to enhance student learning. Simply giving a student a computer in order to type up an assignment is not meaningful engagement. Giving that same student a computer with tools such as Google Read/Write that both the student AND the educator are well versed in is meaningful engagement. Teaching lessons on media literacy or the importance of evaluating sources when conducting research that incorporate computers/smartphone usage is meaningful engagement. A geography lesson using Google’s “streetview” or “maps” feature? Meaningful engagement.
Technology is going to continue to play a vital role in the classroom. Therefore, educators must find ways of meaningfully engaging students using the very tools that are relevant to them. By doing so, we’re not only doing our jobs but we’re helping to provide them with the necessary skills to succeed in either post-secondary education or in the workforce – something that’s backed up in Channing’s Blog this week where she points out that “65% of grade school children will have jobs that do not even exist yet” something that places an emphasis “21st Century Skills” rather than on content.
That’s all for today, time to go enjoy some mid-September tobogganing.