Technology - Not a Guarantee for Engagement

After three days of Schlechty, I've had nothing but student engagement on my mind. How do we create work for students that they will be dedicated to, be persistent at, and find value in? What resources should we use when designing that engaging work?

You'd think a technology director would insist that technology is the only answer! Well, here's one techie that says, "not always." While technology can, and often does, encourage student engagement, it must be only a part in the design of quality work for kids. As Phil Schlechty pointed out in our first night here, students today are not "impressed" by technology the same way we were, or are. These digital natives view technology as just another learning tool, just as we view textbooks. It's nothing new to them.

So, simply adding technology to a lesson without careful thought and consideration of other important design qualities will not ensure engagement. Having students create a PowerPoint presentation for the sake of employing technology does little. Having them create a PowerPoint presentation to present their findings on water conservation on their campus as part of a presentation to the school board and the architectural firm designing the new cafeteria does wonders for engagement (kudos to Mr. David's Environmental Science class at Cole).

And, truth be told, some of the most engaging lessons I've seen had no technology in them at all. Mrs. Uriegas's annual Poetry Slam, or Mrs. Fuller's Socratic dialogue circles were some of the most engaging and successful lessons I've ever seen. When I interviewed students in my district and asked them what engaged them, many said "hands-on activities" and a few said "when we use the computer", but I was surprised by how many said, "when my teacher listens to me."

The TPACK model calls for a knowledge of Pedagogy and Content (along with a knowledge of the Technology) for teachers to be successful with the integration of technology. That's all I'm reiterating here.

I love my job. I am a self-proclaimed tech nerd. I want our students engaged, and if technology will help achieve that end and I can help, I will. But, technology alone won't engage students. Good teaching and good design will.

- Image from Accessed January 25, 2011
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


Rick Martinez said…
Well said.
day_by_day said…
It's really refreshing to hear people say they "love their job". It shows daily that you love your job and it's nice to know you are always there to deal with the constant techno problems with a ready hand and willing heart.

BTW, I love my job, too.
Juan Farias said…
That is great! This sounds like a really great conference. I wish I could have been there. Student engagement is where your sights have to be set. Unfortunately, for students to be dedicated, persistent, and able to find value in schoolwork is another challenge in and of itself. It could be that teachers are at such a big disadvantage because they are competing with some real big league-rs, like cell phones, I pods, video games and all of the other gadgets and modern technology in the market today. Hopefully, for the sake of the students (our future), teachers will be willing to step up to the plate and take their best shot at designing work for these digital natives that truly engages.
I know too many teachers are feeling overwhelmed with all of the challenges and pressures they are facing with this great task of engaging kids and maybe too often they try to find an easy fix by incorporating technology into assignments, but I totally agree with you when you say that “it must be only a part in the design of quality work for kids.”
I am not at all surprised at the fact that, when you interviewed students, many said that they felt engaged when their teacher listened to them. That is what teachers should be doing. Teachers must be listening to their students and finding ways to respond effectively to the student's interests in order for these students to become engaged and persevere. If they are not engaged, the work may become so challenging that the students will not be willing to become dedicated, persistent and find value in their schoolwork. So here is where it has to start, in the teacher’s delivery. Then you can bring on all of the technology and great lesson plans.
Anonymous said…
I agree that students today are not nearly as impressed with technology and technological innovations as students in previous years. I believe that, while technology is a great tool, other methods should be utilize in order to fully engage students. In my experience as an elementary, middle, and high school student I found that the most effective lessons were those taught using a combination of technology and other methods. Introducing creativity into the classroom is extremely important when technology is relied on so heavily in other areas of life. I think it's wonderful that as a technology director (and self proclaimed tech nerd) that you are aware of and considering alternative options and creative uses for technology.

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