Saturday, May 21, 2011

Technology is still the wrong answer: David Warlick

My colleagues and I are making a video whose purpose is to celebrate the success we've had with our "technology community interest group". Our goal for the group is for students to use higher order thinking and be knowledge producers in their learning. You will notice we don't even mention the words technology or computers in our goal.

In order to assess how we have been doing at achieving that goal, I asked my kids to respond on video and on their blogs to the question "can you describe a time in our classroom when you were required to think as opposed to memorize, research or consume information". Their answers were interesting. I asked them to record their thoughts on our class blog. I have included a few of them here.

Carter writes:

"This year we tried to make our class a thinking classroom. One of the assignments that we did to think instead of consume, research and memorize is math at the math. I had to think at the mall because we had to estimate real prices and find the closest prices at the mall to the ones we estimated. We got to go to the mall and find prices of products listed on our paper. Math at the mall was a very life-like assignment, it was also very fun."

Lexi writes

"Today I am doing my blog post about an activity where we had to think in school. This year we did blogging to help with our writing skills. I chose to do my blog about drugs. I had to think about where I was going to get my information, I also had to think about ways to improve my writing. I think blogging really helped me this year because we got to choose what topic we wanted to do and what we were really interested in. I thought blogging was a good way to practice our writing skills instead of sitting in class all day long and having to learn about something no one cares about, while the teacher gives us instructions. I felt in blogging we had more freedom to write about whatever we wanted. "

and Tanner

"This year we did a lot of projects where we needed to think. My favorite one was project business. We learned all about running a business. Also everybody had to think about lots of stuff such as what business you wanted to run, how much you wanted to charge, etc. all with a partner so you also had to think about how to share the workload, as well as the profit. It took a lot of thinking to get the business up and running successfully but it was the most rewarding thing we did."

Most students responded by talking about their favorite activity which involved thinking, often the most recent project we did. I think I would have gotten better responses if we had reflected on this question in writing more often during the year. The other thing that you will notice is that none of them mention technology in their answers. This may be an indication that even though they used technology in these projects, they did not necessarily associate thinking with technology.

I was reading David Warlick's post "Technology is still the wrong answer". He claims that great student learning is:
  • responsive
  • fueled by questions
  • provokes conversation
  • is rewarded with currency
  • inspires personal investment
  • is guided by safely made mistakes
I would certainly agree with his blog post and the kids posts would support that. Our google doc of higher order thinking activities in our class do not all feature technology front and center.

I am proud of our school's technology initiative goal (our students will use higher order thinking and be knowledge producers in their learning). I look forward to continuing to pursue it next year and beyond.

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