Thursday, November 7, 2013

Just "digital worksheets" or much, much more?

     As another year has begun, I have found myself turning more and more to technology for our everyday tasks, but I will have to admit:  I am not doing it just for the kids!  Technology engages me more in my lessons, allows me to plan and prepare more quickly, and it's eliminating my paper load!  I had the latter half of last year with our tablets and now the beginning of this year, and I am wondering what a whole year of 1:1 tablet instruction will look like? 

     Although, I recently read a blog post about how some people think teachers are not going about integrating technology in the right ways, and that some are just using it for "digital worksheets."  (See article Digital Worksheet Rant Hurting Progress)  This of course caused some self-evaluation as I thought about how my students spent an obscene amount of time Friday completing their summative word study assessment on Polaris Office on their tablets.  (Only to find out also, that I mistakenly included the answer key at the end of the test when I uploaded to Edmodo!)  The test was void anyways.  Should I have just given them a paper copy?  Did I assign the test on Edmodo just for the sake of saying that I was integrating technology?  And I questioned myself, Am I also guilty of just giving my students "digital worksheets?"  I quickly came to the conclusion that no, I am doing much more, after I reviewed all the ways so far this year that I have had my students utilize technology in the classroom. 

     I look at it differently than just giving them "digital worksheets"... after all, it is no easy task to complete a document on Polaris Office on a Samsung Galaxy for the first time.  I think my students are practicing a number of strategies and problem solving skills when they are completing this "digital worksheet" and going about the process of turning it in through Edmodo. 

     First of all, they are using problem solving strategies and they themselves are discovering the best way to go about completing their document or assignment.  Along with completing their test digitally, they are acquiring the skills necessary to navigate and manipulate a device with fluency.  They are children and students of the 21st century and one of my jobs as a 21st century teacher is to prepare them for their future, which is a little different than how we were all prepared for our futures.  I believe that by integrating technology daily, and having the resources to put the technology into the hands of my students, that not only am I making my students excited about school and engaging them more in their work, but I am allowing them to become technologically fluent.  By dealing with a multitude of technology applications and web 2.0 tools on a daily basis, it will become second nature to them.  They will be ahead of their peers in technology skills and abilities and they are only in 5th grade!  They can figure things out before I do, and this will only help them in the long run, further developing their technical talents and embedding the love of technology at a young age. 

     Now I am not saying that everyone is taking to it easily, there are the ones who struggle and who will always struggle, but any exposure will benefit them.  They attack the tasks that I give them, they struggle through navigating the applications and web resources, but in the end, I can see that they are so proud of themselves.  I am too.

     And to think, we are only at the beginning of the year.  I have so many plans and I can't wait to see where they take us!

     Conclusion:  If you have access to the resources, integrate technology as much as you can!  "Digital worksheets," independent work, collaborative projects, book talks, etc., you name it!  Your students will love it, and will work hard at it, learning along the way and preparing themselves for their future...

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