I remember several years ago conversing with a fellow English teacher and former colleague about the use of technology in the classroom. He is an articulate scoundrel with an attitude and a cane, and he was a pleasure to have in unnecessary meetings.
Regardless, at the time of our discourse, technology seemed something of a mandate in schools. There seemed to be a fear that if students didn't become familiar with current technological trends, they would be handicapped in the workforce. It is a logical assumption.
As such, technology needed to be implemented into our lessons. You should have seen those gym students doing push-ups on laptops. As a result, educational objectives sometimes seemed to imply technology was the goal instead of the actual content of the class.
In comparison, it would be like an assessment that measures how well a student takes the test instead of measuring a student's ability. If that were the case, teachers would be required to teach students techniques to outwit the test instead of teaching actual useful content or information. I imagine weeks or months being wasted. Crazy, huh?
Regardless, I love technology. I'm typing on a computer right now and will eventually invoke the power of email to send this editorial to my editor. I also have a Kindle, and I have read many novels from its digital library while listening to music on my cassette player.
However, as we have all learned, technology can break. And our little needful things become outdated faster and faster. That's because ultimately technology is a tool. Also, tools are subjective to the user. For example: we can't all use a hammer. My father-in-law explained this to me.
And as much as I appreciate the necessity of understanding how to use current devices, education should transcend the "tool" and hopefully inspire and integrate some useful and necessary knowledge in the recipient.
Consequently, my Creative Writing Class hosted a guest speaker yesterday, courtesy of Knox Promise Neighborhood. Her name is Nancy Allen and she is an award-winning author of children's books, of which she has published many. When this lively woman walked into my cluttered room, she carried only a book bag.
It had books in it.
My computer was ready in case she wanted to use my smartboard projector, but to my bobble-head Batman's despair, she didn't even come close to my desk. I also offered her my old wooden podium, but she waived her hand and armed herself with one of her books. A big, colorful, glossy book.
She began talking to the class immediately, handing out pieces of paper with several terms on it. She proceeded to go over each term, several times moving to my white board, at which point she used a marker to elaborate some of her points. She was full of energy and traversed back and forth amongst the students. She must have done real push-ups in school.
Suddenly, I found myself making my way from my desk in front of the class to an empty student desk toward the back of the class. I love writing and was enthralled with her lesson. I sat there at attention in my desk and several times had to stop myself from answering her questions that were meant for my students. I even accidentally raised my hand once when she asked someone to complete a sentence. She didn't call on me.
When the bell had rang, she was still talking, and my students sat respectfully still until she was done. Afterwards, I thanked her, and she left my room with just as much energy she walked in with. The lesson she taught was wonderful and entertaining, and my students and I both will benefit from it.
As I think back about my conversation with my colleague, I remember agreeing with him about the dangers of trends and how a society thinks it understands a need. We had both surmised that good teaching is not determined by tools (specifically technology), but more truly by the teacher. And my colleague was one of the best, so his words stick with me and to this day prove true.
Brian Theodore is a language arts teacher at Corbin High School and lives in Corbin with his wife, who is also a teacher at CHS. He can be contacted at Theteachersdesk.firstname.lastname@example.org.