Monday, October 17, 2005

Deliberate Learning and Technology

In July of 1978 I saw a demonstration of a desktop computer (a Radio Shack TRS 80). Immediately I thought of ways of using it in my middle school Spanish classroom and so I bought it. However, I quickly learned that I had to program it; there were no commercial programs. I had to decide whether the student learning was worth my time in creating the individual programs. As I thought of each lesson that I was going to teach, I would decide if the computer was a useful tool for presenting or testing information. I found that I could develop meaningful vocabulary, grammar, written conversation, and cultural lessons. Once I decided to use the computer for a specific lesson, I had to be very precise about what I wanted the students to learn, how they would be quizzed, and then how I could structure the learning activities for students' success; today we call it Understanding by Design. Then I would write the computer program for that lesson.

I included the computerized lesson as one of the learning stations in my Spanish classes. Usually the computerized lesson provided a follow up to the previous day's introduction of a new concept or it reviewed a topic covered the past week such as vocabulary. Students would huddle around the computer; they took turns answering the questions. If a student was not at the keyboard, he or she wrote down his or her answer before the keyboarder entered the answer. Students were thrilled by the computer program since they knew instantly whether they were right or wrong. If the keyboarder was incorrect, then the computerized lesson provided some remediation. I felt like I had a partner in the room.

Structuring student learning for success through technology was a laborious yet rewarding task for me. Now, as I visit classrooms in many schools and have pre-service teachers report on their supervising teachers' classrooms, I wonder how deliberate teachers are in helping students to be successful learners through technology.

I find that many teachers have their students use technology since the teachers can use the technology with very little effort. On the other hand, I have found that some teachers' technology embedded learning activities result in much classroom time and little subject area learning. I feel that sometimes there is a disconnect between the selected learning and the students' specific technology use.

If teachers can be more deliberate about the specific learning they want for their students and how they will assess that learning, they will create appropriate technology embedded learning activities that allow their students to be successful learners.

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