The increasing integration of digital writing into traditional classes is an exciting new development in education. As Eidman-Aadahl points out in the article “Writing Re-Launched: Teaching with Digital Tools,” “Digital writing skills are critical to ‘college and career readiness.’” I absolutely agree.
For those teachers and schools lucky enough to have the funding for video cameras, iPads and 1-to-1 computer programs, this is a frontier that has been easier to explore. For the vast majority of teachers, myself included, the digital divide and inequities in access require teachers to be innovative and resourceful if they want to introduce technology into their curriculum.
That said, I do not think lack of access can be an excuse not to incorporate technology into our teaching. If teachers are not providing students with opportunities to engage in conversations online, work with media to enhance communication, and learn to express themselves digitally, then we are not truly preparing them for life beyond high school.
Teacher’s always ask me, “what do you do if a kid doesn’t have access to technology?” Ironically, this question is often asked at an education technology conference where the goal is successful integration of technology. My answer, “find them access.”
We are at a breaking point where students who do not have access are being disserved by the system. This is quickly developing into the next civil rights issue. Those students without access to technology are not privy to huge amounts of information and countless opportunities. We have to find a way to empower students with technology regardless of their socio-economic status.
Last year, I finally joined the ranks of teachers exploring online learning platforms and the use of media – visual and audio – to complement traditional text. How was I able to do this with one computer- an ancient Dell- in my classroom? Leverage the technology my students bring to the table and adopt a free online learning platform- Collaborize Classroom.
Prior to adopting a blended learning model that wove together work in class with work online (primarily for homework to replace pen and paper work), I was unable to facilitate the kind of creative, engaging, collaborative writing tasks described in this article.
After two years of facilitating online discussions, student driven projects, creative and formal writing via my online learning platform, I am finally confident that I am preparing my students with the necessary skills they will need to be successful beyond the walls of my classroom.
In their official blog Google described the skills they- and other “forward thinking” companies- are looking for in employees. Some of the qualities include: analytical reasoning, communication skills, a willingness to experiment, team players, passion and leadership. Very few of these attributes can be cultivated when an individual sits alone to write with pen in hand. Instead it is through dynamic conversations, student led discovery of knowledge, collaborative group projects that many of these skills are refined and developed.
As Waldman says, “If [the technology] meets a need I haven’t been able to meet or accomplishes the objective of increasing student willingness to invest their time, I’m willing to put in the time to learn it.” I think most teachers would agree with this statement.
Personally, I feel more effective, efficient and innovative since incorporating an online discussion platform into my curriculum. My students are more connected as well and value each other as important resources in the class. Their engagement, creativity, insights and investment make the time it took to acclimate to this new model of teaching well worth it