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Sunday, February 28, 2016

Technology: Powerful Weapon or Greatest Foe?

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There is mistrust around innovative educators these days because of how technology is being used (or misused) in some schools and districts. By now you’ve heard the stories of tech replacing caring teachers. You’ve heard how class sizes are being increased and students are left to learn by staring at screens rather than interacting with classmates and teachers. You’ve heard complaints from students and teachers who use online learning programs about where they fall short (10 recommendations to address that.). You know that in some cases computers are simply being used as testing machines and that is a travesty.

But this advice is key:

“Technology is the most powerful weapon we have against corporate education reform.  It is also our greatest foe.” -- Dr. Stephen Krashen

Krashen, who is a linguist and education researcher, recently shared with parents concerned about testing and the use of technology in schools that, “In the hands of a classroom teacher, technology can be an excellent tool to help kids learn. However, top-down policies like Competency Based Education only take away educators’ autonomy and turn them into mere facilitators of prepackaged materials of dubious quality.”

He went on to explain that “The Internet is our underground. Facebook and Twitter are our weapons. Though policymakers and journalists rarely listen to experts like classroom teachers, the Internet allows us to spread our message. We don’t need anyone’s permission to speak up. We are all free to do so and should do it more often.”

Krashen is right. I am fortunate to have a career where I am tasked to carry out the important work Krashen discusses: Helping educators and students use their voice to spread their ideas via social media. At a workshop I gave to principals this month I shared this:
“It is a principal’s job to be storyteller-in-chief for their school. It is the job of teachers to be storytellers-in chief for their classrooms and to help students tell their own stories.”

This is nothing new though. I’ve helped teachers and students tell their story since the start of my career at an inner city school in Central Harlem. You know the movie “Precious” or the book “Push?” The school Precious went to is the school where I started my career. I had students like Keryce Davis (who I am still in contact with thanks to Facebook) by my side to help teachers use technology. The first class I taught was showing teachers how to create their own website to tell their story of themselves and their class using Dreamweaver. Keryce and other students joined me at these classes as my trusted assistants in the important work of helping teachers use technology to share their ideas.
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