I ask myself this question often, especially as a teacher in a 1:1 learning environment. Striking the balance of using the technology in a meaningful way while teaching and guiding students effectively can be a challenge. I often stop to ask myself if the technology is truly necessary to enhance the learning experience for my students.
This past week, my students wrote a short research paper. (In case you were wondering, this covers common core standard W.6.7: Conduct short research projects to answer a question drawing on several sources.) To help students organize their research, we used tabbed folders with library pockets stuck inside to hold their research that was written on good old-fashioned index cards.
(Our pretty green research folders.)
"I can't believe you are not using technology for this project," one of my colleagues commented.
But my students were using technology. They were using their Chromebooks to access a webquest, which was guiding the research process. Students were accessing different web resources and taking notes on their findings. Students were also using technology to publish their final paper, which they shared with their classmates. Finally, students will be using all of this wonderful research to collaborate on a multimedia project that answers our guiding question.
Here's the thing. It's not about the technology. It's about teaching students to think, to ask questions, to organize their thoughts, to make revisions, to write. Could we have found a way to do all of the pre-writing, planning and note-taking using some web tools? Definitely. Would that make the experience any better for my students? I am not so sure.
When I asked students if they liked using the note card system for their research, the majority of my students said that they preferred doing research this way. One student even told me she thought it was fun and that she felt "more organized and prepared."
As many school districts embark on their own 1:1 journey, I think it is important for teachers to ask themselves, "Am I using technology for technology's sake?" We need to remember that it is not always necessary to use technology 100% of the time. A hybrid approach to using technology along with effective pedagogy is our ultimate goal as teachers, facilitators and guides in a 1:1 learning environment.