I am missing a technology conference today: NICE Mini-conference 2010, thanks to some weird virus. I was feeling pretty sad about it, but have begun to find the resources of the presenters on the WWW. Just one presenter had ten web-based resources to use with the students!
How do you keep up with technology? If you're lucky, you have a job that requires you to explore new tools every day. More likely than not, you have to go out of your way to learn new skills. I have been stymied this week by a coworker that implied I shouldn't teach writing with technology MY way because it might conflict with the writing curriculum that we will be using next year. She has been a steady and helpful support for a couple of years now, and a great coworker. I'm sure she sees flaws in my writing instruction that would be corrected with the new curriculum. Yet the pace of technology is relentless. The pace of progress is relentless! New developments in every field are proposed and refuted by research every day. What is one to believe? The reading curriculum that goes with the writing curriculum has been excellent, so I will go with what works. I still wonder if increasing the number of reading interventions at the cost of thematic, multi-disiplinary projects is going to help the overall thinking of the child. "Teach to their strengths" seems to have become 'Test to overcome their weaknesses" and the whole child is forgotten in a pile of test scores and graphs. On the other hand, my instruction begins with assessment. How can you know what to teach unless you know where the student functions. Do you really want to waste valuable school time teaching something they already know or presenting material that is years above the students' abilities?
So where's the balance? I can truthfully say that many of the problems presented by using technology in education are not being solved: how to get teachers to use new methods, how to give students access to technology (especially if they live in poverty), how much to filter, how much time to spend on computers using what software, how to insure equity for all users, how to shift district priorities to insure technology use is encouraged. For me, the balance is in using what you can. Instead of writing your report on Siam, type it in to Kidspiration or a word processor, recite it into Voicethread (filter issues notwithstanding), make a presentation of it. Let the kids play with it and discover what they can make. (That one would not pass the "linked to curriculum" rule in my district.) We don't have time to wait for what is coming next year. Learn what you can, when you can, and pass it on!
In the time it took for me to write this, an email came with information about another type of reading instruction: Renee Seward's Multimedia Program Linking Sounds and Letters: Reading By Design