Saturday, July 27, 2013

Amidst Technology Buzz, Don't Forsake Reading, Writing and Discussion

The Twitter feeds, RSS feeds, blogs and news outlets include more information today about educational technology than ever before. As funding for edtech increases, teachers will be enjoying access to more edtech in the coming years than they've ever had access to before, even in poorer districts and schools. Indeed, teachers all over the world now have at their disposal more hardware, apps, social media and other edtech options than at any time in history, and they have a plethora of IT help (both flesh and blood and digital) to get technology integrated successfully and meaningfully into their classrooms. The move toward integration of technology into classrooms has been building momentum for a number of years and classroom teachers will be reaping the benefits of that momentum more than ever beginning with the 2013-14 school year. This is a good thing... up to the point that it isn't.

As educational leaders, we must be good stewards of the finite number of classroom minutes allotted to us each year. One of the items on our ever-growing and ever-changing job descriptions must be balancing the integration of technology with the practice of invaluable educational staples like reading, writing and discussion. The edtech movement perhaps has blinded some educators and has given other educators amnesia. In other words, there exist many edtech advocates who gladly would sacrifice reading, writing and discussion for more technology. Do not be one of those. Room must be made for both.

Without a doubt, students today benefit from creative and meaningful integration of electronic texts, social media, laptops, iPads, smartphones, apps, the cloud, etc., into their classroom experience. No matter how great the integration of technology for those students, though, an insufficient amount of reading (sustained reading of a variety of texts across the disciplines), writing (more than just 140 characters) and discussion (not just in chat rooms or on discussion boards, but engaging oral and written conversations) will leave those students unprepared for success in the 21st century. Likewise, a steady diet of reading, writing and discussion alone will leave students equally unprepared.

As an educational leader, do not allow your district, school, peers, teachers, or anyone else to throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. Edtech without reading, writing and discussion does students harm in the same way reading, writing and discussion with  no edtech does students harm. When done correctly, edtech certainly can support, enhance and add value to reading, writing and discussion. Edtech alone, though, provides a poor substitute for a meaningful classroom experience.

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