I am participating in the 2007 ECOO conference in Mississauga, Ontario and have had a wonderful first day. Quentin D’Souza and I presented our “Web 2.0: Promises and Potentials” presentation today and I feel that it went pretty well.
The sessions that I attended today were quite an eye opening. One of those sessions included Gary Stager and his “If Blogging is the Answer, What’s the Question?” presentation. While I respect his argument that teachers are not necessarily using digital tools to improve student learning, I felt that the tone of the presentation left the impression that digital tools were not worth the investment in time or money (although that is not necessarily what he said). I did raise my concerns with Gary this during the presentation, especially when he was discussing his opinion that Digital Storytelling is not necessarily a constructive learning tool in that it leads teachers to encourage short, choppy work.
This got me thinking about the use of mobile tools in the classroom. I think in education, we sometimes focus too much on the tools themselves that we forget that education is not about the tools, but about improving student learning. My gut feeling is that when a teacher tries to use an iPod or a cell phone as the sole tool for his/her teaching, the technology will fail in it’s ability to help students learn better. Sometimes paper and pencil are needed help students learn certain skills or curricular concepts. However, sometimes paper and pencil are not appropriate either and a student can learn a concept better on an iPod or when recording a podcast on their mobile phone. I think that today’s sessions helped me to refocus and realize that the tools are just tools, regardless if they are flashy or not, and that we need to select the appropriate tool for the appropriate learning task.
That having been said, I think we still have a long way to go until teachers on a larger scale begin to select an iPod, cell phone, PDA or other “cool” handheld devices as the tool of choice to help improve student learning. Just as there is a place for paper and pencil, there is also a place for digital devices in learning. Perhaps my job here is to help teachers understand how handheld devices can be used to improve students learning. I often hear that technology engages students. That’s fine if the engagement is the results from the learning because students are feeling engaged as they create knowledge in a fun and exciting way. However, if that engagement is simply based on that WOW factor that they are using an iPod in class, then when that WOW feeling fades, so will the interest in using that handheld device.
So I guess my question is this – where do go? There are so many impediments (district policies, negative propaganda for the media, resistive attitudes) yet so much potential.