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13 Reasons for Using Technology in the Classroom

Jacqui Murray

For the 45 states who opted into Common Core, using technology in the classroom is no longer a choice -- it's required. Common Core's Standards insist that for any student to be prepared for college and career requires they be digitally and technologically savvy.

From the English Language Arts Standards: Technology differentiates for student learning styles by providing an alternative method of achieving conceptual understanding, procedural skill and fluency, and applying this knowledge to authentic circumstances.

From the Math Standards: Mathematically proficient students consider the available tools when solving a mathematical problem. These tools might include pencil and paper, concrete models, a ruler, a protractor, a calculator, a spreadsheet, a computer algebra system, a statistical package, or dynamic geometry software. Proficient students are sufficiently familiar with tools appropriate for their grade or course to make sound decisions about when each of these tools might be helpful.

The standards themselves go into detail. Sprinkled throughout are constant allusions to the importance of using technology, its fundamental nature as the bedrock of education, and the necessity to weave it throughout the academic fabric, regardless the topic, skill or requirement.

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Here are 13 reasons why this is a good idea. The first seven are directly from the Standards, the last six from my classroom experience. 

1. Technology allows students to demonstrate independence. Tech makes it easy to provide options for accomplishing goals. Consider a book report delivered with Voki, Prezi, Glogster or a video. Students make a decision as to which approach is best suited to their communication and learning style.

2. Technology enables students to build strong content knowledge wherever they find it. It's easy for students to pursue anything they're curious about with technology. Make available online dictionaries to quickly look up unknown words. Teach students the tricks of quick and accurate online research. Follow the lead of hundreds of schools nationwide that have added the Genius Hour to their curriculum, where students follow school academic guidelines 80 percent of the time and get to follow their own passion for the remaining 20 percent.

3. Technology responds to the varying demands of audience, task, purpose, discipline. Decode this critical concept early in the education year. Explain why audiences are different -- as is task, purpose and discipline -- and how communication methods need to adapt to those variances to succeed. Then, let students pick what works, be it audio, visual, textual, color/movement, or a polyglot of their own making.

4. Technology values evidence. With technology, students can click through to primary documents for evidence in support of their argument and push back if they don’t find those connections. Is the information believable if they can't evaluate source material? What if it was misinterpreted? Teaching students to read closely, think critically, and dig deeper is easier with technology.

5. Technology understands other perspectives. Sure, this can be done through conversation and class presentations, but doing it through blogging, comments, discussion boards (technology) is bigger. Plus, as students share their perspective, they can edit and rewrite to be sure the words fully reflect their ideas.

6. Technology differentiates for needs of students. Nothing does this better than technology. The creative student can use art and music. Those who love words can write. Visual learners can use a combination of color, images and personal drawings.

7. Technology deepens learning by using resources students are interested in. If we do our job well, students are inspired to learn more. They are eager to dig deeper into what has sparked their scholastic interest. If that means getting a ride to the library, going to the bookstore for a book, arranging tutoring time with a knowledgeable teacher, they may never get to it. If resources are only a click away, the chances of the task’s completion increase —and the activity itself may even become fun. Share these enrichment materials through Google Apps for Education, post links through a class Internet page or Diigo account, and create a playlist through programs like MentorMob.

8. Common Core expects students to be active learners, authors, not just consumers. Technology makes that happen by asking them to publish, share, collaborate.

9. Students want to use technology. When students use iPads, Chromebooks, laptops, widgets, online tools and a plethora of other digital devices, technology provides a path to learning that students are eager to follow. Why ask them to unplug at the schoolhouse door?

10. Technology is its own assessment tool. To paraphrase James Paul Gee, a professor of literacy studies at Arizona State University: "When students use simulations, games, videos to learn, they have to problem-solve, critically think, transfer knowledge from other learning experiences." That’s a good thing.

11. Learning with technology is connected. In a connected, technology-rich environment, students engage with peers, celebrities, relatives and experts worldwide. They like to do that. Why do you think social media is so viral?

12. Technology gives students an equal voice. Student value is in what they produce, not based on age or grade level. Their voices are important; they are listened to. If they publish an ebook, it is judged on the quality of writing, not their age. Where else can this happen?

13. Consider a video. For teaching, that is. Students can pause it, rewind, learn at their own pace. That’s technology.

Use these 13 reasons to offset the three most popular excuses for not using technology:

1. It doesn’t fit into my program.

2. I’m already juggling too much.

3. I don’t have time to learn it or use it.

Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach once said, "Teachers will not be replaced by technology, but teachers who don't use technology will be replaced by those who do." Amen.

If you don't use technology in the classroom -- or wish you didn't have to -- share your reasons.

_________________________

Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-8 technology for 15 years. She is the editor of a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum, and creator of technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. She is webmaster for six blogs, CSG Master Teacher, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, a columnist for Examiner.com, IMS tech expert, and a weekly contributor to TeachHUB. Currently, she’s editing a techno-thriller that should be out to publishers next summer.