Web 2.0 applications. Mobile learning. Digital portfolios. Flipped classrooms. Just a few of many topics I learned more about at the recent International Society for Technology in Education Conference (ISTE), and plan to tweet/blog about in the coming weeks. But what stood out to me at ISTE even more than all the great ideas for integrating technology were all the reminders that while technology can enhance teaching, it can't replace teachers.
Developmental molecular biologist John Medina spoke to this in his opening keynote address when he cited theory of mind--which relates to human qualities such as empathy and the ability to peer inside someone else's mind--as a predictor of teaching competence. And in a session titled Improving Student Results in STEM Subjects, New Jersey Center for Teaching and Learning Director Robert Goodman said "the instructional moment is the interaction between teacher and student."
This isn't to say that either of these esteemed educators or any others who spoke at ISTE thinks we should cut back on technology in schools. On the contrary, speaker after speaker advocated strongly for providing all students technology-rich classrooms. And I agree with them. Yet I also agree that, in the end, teachers influence the quality of students' educational experiences more than technology does.
I offer this as encouragement for those who feel daunted or threatened by technology. At the same time, you've got no choice. It's our duty now, as it's always been, to provide schools where kids can learn to their potential, which technology helps us do. Change can be challenging, so it's understandable if you're tentative about technology. Keep in mind, though, that just as countless veteran teachers successfully implemented new approaches such as cooperative learning, so too can you learn to use technology to its fullest in your classroom.
But also keep in mind that you'll need the same qualities to be effective in a technology-rich classroom that you've needed to be effective in a traditional classroom. In particular, the human qualities--per theory of mind--needed to achieve what Science Leadership Academy Principal Chris Lehman called "the most important thing that we do" in his closing keynote at ISTE: help children become fully realized people of their world.
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