Goodbye To “Additional Work” And “Free Time”

My thoughts on using technology in the classroom are constantly changing. I continue to try some tools, apps, and programs that work well, and some that don’t. I’ve used some with older students that don’t seem to work as well with younger students, some that work well with all students, and some that only work with some students — whether younger or older. Many times, I find that the best tool to use is not necessarily a device, but just the ability to capture the student learning with a photograph, video, podcast, or screencast is powerful.

Based on my thinking about technology use in the classroom, there are then two statements that I hear regularly that really bother me:

  • “My students are rushing through their work to use the iPads.”
  • “The iPads are great for free time.”

I’ve responded to these statements differently over the years, but recently, I’ve started to ask many questions:

  • How might the technology be used for the work time?
  • How does technology enhance student learning?
  • Which students might benefit the most from using the technology? How could they use it?
  • What is free time?
  • How could free time become work time?
  • What apps or programs are the students using? What other ones could they use to maybe support more thinking and learning?

We talk a lot that even when inservicing on technology use, pedagogy matters. I wonder if this is where the professional development needs to start. Maybe we all need to consider these questions:

  • How do we believe that students learn best? What evidence supports our belief? How could technology be used as part of this learning environment?
  • Who are our struggling students? How are we helping them learn? What tools could be used to support them more? How could we best use these tools?
  • What are the Big Ideas that we’ll be focusing on this year? What role can technology play in the instruction and exploration of these Big Ideas?

I know about the SAMR Model. I know that everyone needs to start somewhere and grow from there. But I really question the long-term implications if we don’t quickly move away from technology as being an add on to what we’re already doing and teaching in the classroom. As Kristi Keery-Bishop explains well in this blog post, we don’t have time for an add on. What do we need to “let go?” How can technology fill this void, and fill it better than it was before? I think that “work” can happen using many different tools (and maybe not the same ones for all students), and the “free time” can still be rich learning time. What do you think?


2 thoughts on “Goodbye To “Additional Work” And “Free Time”

  1. I so agree with this. Kids love using iPads, and they also love learning while using iPads.

    Teachers need to stop using technology as a reward. Back in the day, kids would “earn” computer time. Now it is iPad time. I don’t know how to change this thought process, but it needs to change.

    • Thanks for the comment, Sara! I totally agree with you that this thought process needs to change. If not, iPads will never be seen as learning tools. Maybe the change comes from our discussions on expectations (and how the tools can help meet them) versus on the tools first. What do you think?


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