Thursday, May 17, 2007

"So what?”

Yesterday I was asked a question that is very common to all of us in Instructional Technology.

"So what? Why is this important?"

I'm in the middle of a great project (with a great teacher) at one of my elementary schools. The project is about life cycles. In this 2nd grade classroom the students, working in 3 groups of 5 students each, have written their own story around their life cycle (Frog, Butterfly, or Sea Turtle) to be read in a Reader’s Theater style. Each group has also prepared a puppet show to illustrate their life cycle visually. We are helping the students videotape the Reader’s Theater and puppet show. We are then going to post these projects online and the students are going to share the movies with their parents at a parent night coming up soon.

"So what? Why is this important? Why use technology, why videotape?"

I had just showed the questioner the completed movie of the Reader’s Theater that the Frog group created and got the question "So what? Why is this important? Why use technology, why videotape?” I had no immediate answer - my mind went blank - I was taken by surprise as I'm sure many of us when we are asked this. I KNOW why it is important and meaningful - but try to vocalize it at that moment, that second in time. I was silent - and finally came up with the silly, most basic importance of what we did - "They learned how to work a camcorder," I said. How silly, how base, how NOT what I wanted to say.

I was lucky; this person understands the great impact that technology has in education. This person was only trying to make me think and not one of the MANY in education that ask this question because they really don't see the value and the meaning of technology-rich integrated projects.

So let me attempt here to answer the "So what?" question.

Instructional technology projects that are integrated into the curriculum are invariably many wonderful things. They:

are Student - Centered,

are Project Based Learning,

use Higher Order Thinking Skills,

allow for Multiple Intelligences,

involve students in their own learning,

thus making students excited about what they are learning,

furthermore allowing them to retain information they learn for longer periods of time - if not forever,


MOST importantly (at least to me) prepare them for the real-world with skills such as collaboration and problem-solving.

This learning is authentic. It is real. That is why it is SO important!

But maybe a better question is really “So why?”

“So why?” Why technology? It is true the project we are doing could be just left as a Reader’s Theater and a puppet show. It would have still been a great student-centered project with higher order thinking skills. It would have involved students; they probably would have been excited, and retained the information for a long time. So, why did we need to videotape it? Bringing technology into this project and recording the Reader’s Theater and the puppet show did something I have a very hard time defining.

There is a level of engagement, an excitement, a love of learning you see with technology. Technology engages students in their world. They use technology all the time, they are much better at it then we are. Additionally, they need technology skills to compete in the real world - communication is done with technology more and more, this is a skill our children MUST have. But there is an indefinable element here – that you have to witness to believe – that I still can’t explain or verbalize – but you can see it when it is happening.

“So, please!” – come to this classroom where students are videotaping and immediately watching their Reader’s Theater and puppet show – and tell me you don’t see the indefinable.