Sara Primerano’s Blog

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Emergent technology in the classroom March 28, 2009

Filed under: Weekly Readings — saraprimerano @ 10:08 am

“Plugging in to Twenty-First Century Writers,” Sara Kajder

Newkirk & Kent chp. 13

– Kajder makes clear the difference between urgent technology – the automatic use of computers in the classroom just because they’re available versus emergent technology – use of various types of technology after a careful study of how they might compliment our current teaching goals.  This makes a lot of sense to me.  As I’ve previously blogged about, my high school instituted a very expensive laptop program maybe 10 years ago under the tutelage of a superintendent who loved technology and wanted to develop a cutting edge.  Five or six years into the program, it self-destructed, since suddenly teachers were teaching “laptop” classes with only technology-based support, not pedagogy-based support.  The students viewed the laptops as toys and many students’ grades actually went down since they spent much more time figuring out how to get around firewalls so they could play World of Warcraft during school rather than do their homework.  We’ve now rejoined the dark ages of outdated computer labs, looking for some sort of happy medium of responsible, productive use of technology.  It sounds as though Kajder’s description of emergent technology might be what we’re looking for.  Her two essential questions, are a great starting point.

1. What are the unique capacities of this tool? (i.e., what can I do with it that I can’t do with anything else?)

2. What does it allow me to do that is better (instructionally) than what I        could do without it? (p. 152)

– Using podcasts to invigorate student interest in and dedication to literature circle discussions is a great idea.  Still providing some guidelines, questions to consider like Kajder’s: “What questions were left unresolved? Which moments of the discussion were the most compelling? What parts of the discussion might help convince a peer to read it? Where did the discussion fall apart or fail? What are the key ideas emerging in your conversation of this text?” (p.155) will help keep students on track, but allowing a podcast to be the final product, rather than a rote worksheet could be a real asset in motivating students and getting them involved.  I could then play some of my favorite podcasts for the class before their next literature circle meeting so the other groups have some sense of what is going on with their peers and it will hopefully motivate each group to perform better each time.

– I really liked the three objectives listed for using literature in class:

1. to engage students in reading for an authentic purpose

2. develop the beginnings of an interpretive class community

3. explore the essential understanding that literature is a mirror of human    experience (p.156)

To make lessons and assessments authentic, to provide an audience for the students’ work and to motivate students using a different output, something as simple as building a wiki or recording a podcast, writing a blog or building a webpage is such a refreshing change from filling out a packet of comprehension questions.  This would also better prepare students for the future – these differing skills of analysis and uses of technology will be valuable assets in the future workplace.  Plus, from the personal standpoint of the teacher, how much more enjoyable might our classroom experience be to have students be actively engaged in their own learning in a productive, dynamic setting, rather than sit quietly in their desks and fill out worksheet after worksheet?

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