Blog Post

It's Time for Some Gratuitous EdTech!

I’m so done with article after article about how we should use Technology in the Classroom when it is “called for” or “appropriate.”  I think these were fine articles about five years ago, but they aren’t fine now.

Why has my attitude changed?  

Because my colleagues haven’t.

A picture of a laptop surrounded by social media iconsMy colleagues who teach in colleges and university English departments across the country are still teaching students to write their essays on paper with pencils, skipping every-other line.  They are still spending weeks of instruction on using MLA style.  They are still lecturing on spelling and grammar.

Why am I upset?  Because they are wasting their time teaching things that can be better handled with technological tools, and ignoring the important aspects of writing that can’t be taught with anything but a competent professional with a heck of a lot of writing experience.  Why are we wasting our student’s time, and ours??

Just for Technology’s Sake: Move your paper-and-pencil work to Google Docs, Microsoft Word, and Scrivner for goodness sakes!!  Teach students how to format their work with technology.  Push them to add pictures and captions and fonts.  Encourage them to think beyond paper to include videos, visualizations, infographics and timelines.

Just for Technology’s Sake:

Teach them to use Zotero, Mendeley or EasyBib or any of a thousand different bibliographic software programs .

Just for Technology’s Sake:

Try teaching students to use some artificial intelligence to help craft their essays, create their thesis statements, or check over their style and grammar.

As a bonus

Try creating a “Dork Short” session in your class where students present their favorite tech tool to their peers in a lightning fast (2 minutes or less) presentation, accompanied by two slides.  This might help refresh their tool box, and yours!

So lets stop with all those articles that seem to take a careful middle path and start to look at an alternative message.  Tell me, what is wrong with “Technology for Technology’s Sake” in the classroom?  What is wrong with me saying, “Hey, students!  I have decided to include technology in my classroom because it’s 2015.  You need technology to get a job, and I need technology to keep my job.”

It’s time to do that.  It’s time to be messy and uncomfortable and ungainly with technology every day because every day technology changes, and I will never really be great with it.  Technology will never be smooth or appropriate or called for, but technology is here to stay.  Yes, there is the outside chance that a electronic pulse bomb will eliminate all technology on earth–but if that happens, there is still ample opportunity to learn to write on paper.  In the meantime, let’s use some Google Docs to create our rough drafts, then let’s organize them in Scrivner or mix-it-up in Twine!  Let’s use some open-source textbooks, or Curriculate, and annotate them with LitGenius!

Let’s call for gratuitous technology in every classroom all the time.  This is the only way that we will prepare our students for life outside our classrooms, and it is the only way we can prepare ourselves for life tomorrow within our classrooms.


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