By David Wicks
Illustration by Andy J. Miller / Photo by Luke Rutan
When I visit the classrooms of my students, who are educators earning their master’s degrees in digital education leadership, I see technology employed. Their students collaborate with students in other schools on infographics to contrast differences in state laws, use iMovie to create book trailers to encourage reading, and create graphic novels with Pixon to communicate important digital citizenship practices. Use of technology — laptops, phones, tablets — in schools does not automatically result in higher test scores, but, when done right, it can support all of the goals of schooling that SPU Professor of Education Art Ellis describes in his work Exemplars of Curriculum Theory: academic knowledge, participatory citizenship, self-realization, and career opportunity. It can also support the necessary work and life skills outlined by The Partnership for 21st Century Learning: communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking.
While technology can be distracting and multitasking impairs attention, school is where students can learn how to use technology as a learning tool. I recently taught a class where students used devices for real-time assessment activities, which revealed what content I needed to clarify and gave students a way to anonymously know what others were thinking before speaking up. We discussed knowing when to put your laptop down or pick up your phone. I never had to ask a student to put a device away, because they all understood technology’s role.
Another reason to focus on digital literacy skills in schools is that not all students have access at home to tools needed for a digital project. When SPU hosted Tent City 3, a resident spoke to my class of teachers about using technology with homeless students. He encouraged its use for student learning and urged them to provide access outside of class. He said not using technology in schools doubles the digital divide for students whose only opportunity to use technology is at school.
Technology in schools, when combined with good teaching and strong content, promotes engaging learning and helps prepare students to be active participants in a global society.