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  • Engage Me: Listen to our Students


    My job allows me to travel around the country visiting different schools and speaking to teachers and students about their use of technology in the classroom.

    What I hear and see concerns me.

    The “technology” I see being utilized as part of instruction in traditional brick and mortar classrooms amounts to little more than the chalkboard being replaced by a PowerPoint presentation.   PowerPoint for classroom teaching can be useful but it exemplifies that classrooms are doing little more than scratching the surface of what is possible by taking advantage of technology.

    Computers have been in American classrooms for two decades, but many sit unused or operate with out-of-date software. Even in schools with very good computer-to-student ratios there is no guarantee that the teachers are adequately prepared to change the way they have been delivering instruction since the day they earned their teaching credentials.

    No disciplines rely on computers more than STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) subjects. If we are to excite students about those subjects, computers and interactive curriculum must be prevalent. Students need to become more engaged in learning by running virtual experiments, collaborating on math problems, assembling and taking apart molecules, and actively solving other problems. Technology-enabled interactivity is a key to keeping them interested in difficult subject matter.

    Some recent sessions that I had with students provided a very clear example of their desire to engage with technology for learning purposes.

    In one example, a student used his iPhone to illustrate a disconnect in how such technologies can be used for educational purposes. With a bit of dramatic flair, the student took his iPhone out of his pocket and held it up asking the adults in the room what they saw. To a person, all of the teachers stated that it was “a phone.” 

    “Precisely my point,” the student declared. “You see a phone when in reality this is my computer. This is my connection to information.” He then went on to share how a teacher recently scolded him for “having his phone out in class” when he was using it to learn more about the topic that the teacher had been discussing in class because he was interested in the lesson. He was essentially asked to leave technology at the classroom door.

    Another meeting I had with a group of middle school students on a career day was equally telling. I asked them the standard “what is your favorite class” question that seems to be a staple of such events. The response I received ranged from physical education., band, web design/computer class, etc. Not a single student responded with math, science, English, or social studies. As I asked follow up questions it became apparent why the students identified the classes that they did. Being actively engaged in the learning process is core to those courses. P.E., band, and a computer class are not passive experiences. They could not say this about their other classes.

    We can debate why technology is not more fully integrated into traditional classrooms (i.e. lack of teacher professional development, administrative commitment, pre-service preparation, and yes, funding), but what we really need to do is change it. And change it now. The term “digital divide” is taking on meaning beyond the traditional reference to those who do not have access to technology. There continues to be a growing divide that exists between today’s students and their use of technology in every aspect of their lives (including the desire for learning) and how technology is really being used in many classrooms.  

    The use of technology to assess performance and individual needs; instruct students inspire their curiosity and creativity; to expand when and where learning takes place; and to engage parents can allow us to fundamentally change what “school” is – for the better.  

    New Jersey Online Learning Services, powered by FuelEducation™, is one strategy that your district can implement to provide an array of engaging, interactive, digital course options for your students. Whether you wish to create a blended learning environment in your school, or have students take classes online that you are not able to offer, NJOLS with their partner FuelEducation™ can help. For more information about NJOLS visit: www.njasa.net

    Additionally, please consider participating in our free webinar series in which an digital learning topic is addressed each month.

    If you have questions about online and blended learning as well as what options may be available to you, e-mail me at: