Professional Learning

Feedback: Technology as a Tool

Seeing tech as enhancer, not replacer.

March 20, 2008
Credit: Edutopia

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

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

Technology as a Tool

Teachers get very concerned whenthey're told to teach technology("Programming: The New Literacy,"February/March 2008). Most of usare barely capable of teaching basicproductivity software (even thoughMicrosoft Word has been around fortwenty-plus years).

Teachers need training -- it almostgoes without saying -- and embeddedin this training must be the vision oftechnology as enhancer, not replacer.Teachers will never become obsolete.Tried-and-true teacher tricks continueto serve us well in the classroom,and they can assist us as weincorporate technology into our classroom.Technology can also help ususe these tricks more effectively andshare them with more educators morequickly.

Ed-tech geeks need to help theircolleagues in the classroom capturethe fun of learning new tools. TheMassachusetts Institute of Technology'sScratch feels like playing withLegos, and it can be used to createsome very cool, very fun, and incidentallyeducational projects.

Joel Zehring
Tucson, Arizona

It is not too late for nongeeks to learnmore about technology and programming.I took my first computer courseat midlife a few years ago. I startedwith computer music technologyand computer multimedia, and thenexplored Web development and programming,but my favorite class wasgame design.

Programming languages and environmentsare becoming much moreuser friendly. There is quite a bit ofsupport available on the Internet. Forexample, Microsoft's Coding for Funand XNA Game Studio both providefree programming environments,starter sample kits, tutorials, blogs,and forums for beginners.

If you are thinking about taking thefirst step into programming, take advantageof your local community college.Many offer classes such as Internetprogramming, Web development,database applications, and traditionalprogramming languages such as Java,C++, and .NET. Some communitycolleges offer game-design and game-programmingcourses, which make itfun to learn basic concepts.

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

Great article. My first thought to thequestion "How do we, as educators,make our students literate?" (giventhat most teachers do not have theseliteracy skills): Let the kids teach eachother. Many of them have alreadyfigured out how to teach themselvesthese skills. Why not mine the richskill set that is already sitting in your classroom?

Diane Dew
Finance manager
Berkeley Public Education Foundation
Berkeley, California

The best education teaches student tosolve problems creatively and thinkcritically. Programming is the best wayto teach both. When I teach my studentsto program games in Logo withMicroWorlds, they are challenged tosolve many problems along the wayand inspired with new ideas.

Building and programming robotsteaches the same skills and more. Theclasses where my students learn themost by far are programming and robotics.These classes should be mandatoryfor all students. Unfortunately,until the United States pays and trainsteachers at a much higher level, theseskills will continue to be taught only ata select few schools.

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

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