Last year, for my teaching certification, I took a class on technology in the classroom. My biggest problem with this was that I felt all the assignments were written in such a way that were forced to respond, “yes! this technology is awesome, and I can think of a thousand and one ways to use it in my class!” Unfortunately, the number of software that we looked at which I actually felt that way about was… well, pitifully low. I might be able to count them on the fingers of one hand. And this is my problem with technology in education.
I’ll be the first to admit, I am not much of a techie. I got nicknamed “Analog Girl” a long time ago because I usually prefer to do things in the non-technological way. Even when I started learning Italian, using the system laid out by Gabriel Wyner in Fluent Forever, I chose to use a leitner box of index cards rather than the computer software he recommends called Anki, which keeps track of everything for you. I sometimes choose the harder path just because it does not have a computer attached to it. Even during nanowrimo, I often hand-write. Two separate years, I did my entire novel my hand. My entire novel. That’s 50,000 words. By hand. The hand-writers during nano sometimes get dubbed as being extra hard core because it’s a lot of writing, but I just prefer the motion of the pen across the paper. I am a tactile learner.
So, I worry sometimes that I will get unfairly (or worse, fairly) grouped in with the people who are anti-technology because they want to keep doing everything the way we’ve always done it. I think that if we really can reinvent the classroom with technology… for the better… then we should be doing it. But I feel that the way we approach technology in education currently means that we ask people to use it for the sake of using it. Technology exists, so we should use it everywhere. There is not enough discussion about what is actually useful for whom and when, which defeats the purpose. I think this attitude has the potential to leave kids behind, and none more so than those who, like me, are tactile learners. I remember first hearing about “virtual manipulatives,” and thinking “that’s an oxymoron. The whole point of manipulatives is that you can manipulate them. With your hands. They’re tactile tools.” In truth, there are things that I would think of as… perhaps virtual is not the right word… but technological manipulatives–things like the Makey Makey, which allows you hook up a computer to random objects and do things like make a video game controller out of Play dough or a drum kit out of a bunch of vegetables, and Little Bits, which are magnetic pieces of circuits so you can create various electronic things without having to know a lot about how electronics work. But these are not things we talked about in my technology class. These are things I found by accident, and unfortunately, I seem to like the things I find by accident more.