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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Feedback: Technology as a Tool

Seeing tech as enhancer, not replacer.
Credit: Edutopia

"Find the passion in your students, and use it to inspire, teach, and give them the chance to find their own meaning in school and in the world. Give them choice -- let them grab their education and run."

Gaetan Pappalardo
Third-grade teacher
Green-Fields School
West Deptford, New Jersey

Technology as a Tool

Teachers get very concerned when they're told to teach technology ("Programming: The New Literacy," February/March 2008). Most of us are barely capable of teaching basic productivity software (even though Microsoft Word has been around for twenty-plus years).

Teachers need training -- it almost goes without saying -- and embedded in this training must be the vision of technology as enhancer, not replacer. Teachers will never become obsolete. Tried-and-true teacher tricks continue to serve us well in the classroom, and they can assist us as we incorporate technology into our classroom. Technology can also help us use these tricks more effectively and share them with more educators more quickly.

Ed-tech geeks need to help their colleagues in the classroom capture the fun of learning new tools. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Scratch feels like playing with Legos, and it can be used to create some very cool, very fun, and incidentally educational projects.

Joel Zehring
Tucson, Arizona

It is not too late for nongeeks to learn more about technology and programming. I took my first computer course at midlife a few years ago. I started with computer music technology and computer multimedia, and then explored Web development and programming, but my favorite class was game design.

Programming languages and environments are becoming much more user friendly. There is quite a bit of support available on the Internet. For example, Microsoft's Coding for Fun and XNA Game Studio both provide free programming environments, starter sample kits, tutorials, blogs, and forums for beginners.

If you are thinking about taking the first step into programming, take advantage of your local community college. Many offer classes such as Internet programming, Web development, database applications, and traditional programming languages such as Java, C++, and .NET. Some community colleges offer game-design and game-programming courses, which make it fun to learn basic concepts.

Lynn Marentette
School psychologist
Union County Public Schools
Charlotte, North Carolina

Great article. My first thought to the question "How do we, as educators, make our students literate?" (given that most teachers do not have these literacy skills): Let the kids teach each other. Many of them have already figured out how to teach themselves these skills. Why not mine the rich skill set that is already sitting in your classroom?

Diane Dew
Finance manager
Berkeley Public Education Foundation
Berkeley, California

The best education teaches student to solve problems creatively and think critically. Programming is the best way to teach both. When I teach my students to program games in Logo with MicroWorlds, they are challenged to solve many problems along the way and inspired with new ideas.

Building and programming robots teaches the same skills and more. The classes where my students learn the most by far are programming and robotics. These classes should be mandatory for all students. Unfortunately, until the United States pays and trains teachers at a much higher level, these skills will continue to be taught only at a select few schools.

Sharon Thompson
Director of academic technology
St. Luke's School
New York, New York

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