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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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1-2-3 -- Red Light!: Let's Give the Use of Technology in Classrooms the Green Light Instead

Chris O'Neal

Educational consultant and former Edutopia.org blogger

I was talking to a group of high schoolers the other day, and we were chatting about school issues. We spoke about their favorite subjects (none said recess, thank goodness), the typical challenges high schoolers face, socializing, and, of course, technology's place in their lives.

All spoke positively about their experiences with technology overall. We spent a little time talking about MySpace and other online social tools. I asked them about their level of tech-savviness -- how comfortable they are using technology tools, getting around new software, and so on. As you'd imagine, the group harmoniously shared no hesitation about diving into various technologies. As the conversation shifted to their classroom experiences, though, things began to splinter somewhat.

One eleventh grader said she used technology a lot throughout school so far. She did lots of journaling in language arts classes, used various technologies in her science classes, and did quite a few Webquest-like activities in social studies classes. However, one senior had a different story. His experiences reminded me of the game 1, 2, 3 -- Red Light!: a row of children advancing while given the green light, then being abruptly halted when someone yells, "Red light!"

In this case, the red light/green light came in the form of going from one classroom to another. He said that in some classes, technology was seamlessly woven into various aspects of the class. But in others, it was not used at all, and even when some of the students suggested it, the teacher balked. His experience made me start to wonder what it is about some teachers that embrace these tools, while others hesitate. Aren't we past the fear-that-it's-going-to-crash-phase yet?

I'm wondering how we work with school administrators and teachers to even the playing field at school so there's not a 1, 2, 3 -- Red Light! effect? How can we convince the holdouts that tapping into the tools that surround us all really is a worthy venture? Or should we be trying to convince them at all? Do you see this at your schools?

Chris O'Neal

Educational consultant and former Edutopia.org blogger

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