When I lead workshops with school districts, I try to keep them as conversational as possible as, perhaps selfishly, I want to learn from the expertise in the room, but I also want to create opportunities for teachers to recognize the expertise that already exists in their district. If I “talk” the whole time, that doesn’t open either of those doors.
One conversation that I have been thinking about was a teacher that I have met on a couple of occasions that is very comfortable with technology herself, as well as implementing it in meaningful ways with her classroom. A story she shared was that she and her students talked about the use of their own personal devices in the classroom and they decided to try not having them for a week and see the impact. This was not a top-down teacher decision, but a conversation and way forward that was made as a group. She shared that many students preferred the “break” from their phones and that they found it was beneficial to their learning. I think she was surprised that I thought that was great for that class!
I am not adamant that kids have access to devices (their own or ones provided) all the time. What I want is that students have opportunities that best serve them to be successful.
For example, I think online portfolios would be hugely beneficial to students, but I also would never force a student to post anything online. I want to provide that opportunity, but ultimately, the student should have the final say on whether they want to post online or not. The same goes for the use of devices. I often say that if you are a “1 to 1” school or district I would be just as bothered if you took “pen and paper” away from a child that benefitted from it, as I would the opposite. Whatever the child needs to succeed is where our focus should be firmly placed.
The key word in the last sentence is “succeed.” If a child would prefer to use a device but it doesn’t benefit their learning or is even detrimental, conversation and guidance are needed from the teacher. That is crucial.
I know personally, my learning has benefitted more with a device than it has with pen and paper, but I also understand that some adults are the opposite. What works for them might not work for me and vice-versa. That’s okay. It is ultimately the opportunity to be successful that matters the most to the learners we serve, and that can look different for each one of our students as it can for ourselves.