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Nonfiction Matters
Inside Nonfiction Matters

Technology Working in Classrooms

Monday I blogged about technology going into classrooms ahead of clear thinking about how to use it — which Myra eloquently echoed in her comment. Today I’ll wear the other hat — giving an example of some good classroom thinking married to digital innovation. I got this blog from Curriki — group that offers support for teachers using new tools: The blog honors several teachers who won prizes for creating versions of Public Service Announcements as a means to teach content. This is hardly world beating, but it makes sense — a relatively simple technology, an experience kids have had (seeing commercials and PSAs), and a unit on, what, current events in Africa, voting, taking care of your body, or protecting the environment. These examples do not require billions of dollars in investment, they merely take the same skill a teacher might have used in giving students a challenging report to research and write, or a project to present in class, and added the beat of echoing a TV commercial.

At the Newseum in Washington,, they have many interactive exhibits where kids can participate in investigating and reporting a story — in front of a camera. That is taking technology as a given in student’s lives and marrying that fact with basic classroom skills — like the Social Studies teacher I met last year who had kids display their knowledge of Am History since 1865 by recording rap songs about whatever person, era, or cause they had studied. He then played the videos — in effect the MTV clips — to the class as reports.

Perhaps the analogy is to armor. At one point in the middle ages a knight on horseback wearing metal was a perfect marriage of goal and technology — chain mail was not so heavy but could stop many kinds of blades and arrows and spear points. The warrior was both mobile and protected. But over time armor got heavier and heavier and more ornate, so that the armor took over — it became more expensive and important than its function. Indeed I once wandered in an Arms and Armour collection in Vienna ( that, by the 1600s, had turned positively S & M — weird metal echoes of flowing fabric and pinched toes that not only made it impossible to fight, but were worse than useless in the age of gunpowder. We need to be sure that educational technology extends who we are and what we know how to teach, rather than being an expensive, cumbersome weight that gets in the way — as bullets whiz by.