Over the last few weeks, I’ve worked with our LA teacher to incorporate more technology into my classroom. In particular, netbook and laptop computers loaded with Kurzweil to support our reluctant and struggling readers. For us this is quite a challenge; our building is over 70 years old, so there are 2 power outlets in a very crowded room. And there are lots of questions around this for me too. These are the kids who take most of your time and energy already. I’m a bit reluctant to expend more of my precious time when it seems already like they won’t meet me halfway. Is this just going to be another path to folly with kids who’ve learned all kinds of strategies to slither out of learning?
It’s certainly a work in progress for us. One of the first things I’ve seen is that kids tend to treat computers like calculators. They’re answer machines. They think the purpose of them is to spit out answers, it’s just a question of pecking keys until the right thing comes out. Not unlike pigeons who’ve been taught by researchers to earn food pellets in a lab situation. Then, for the kids there’s a realization that, whoa, it’s not going to do the work for you. It simply puts you in the same place as a book, only along a different path. It’s interesting to see the look on their face when they reach this point; they slouch, there’s a sigh of resignation, like they’ve been tricked. It’s opening that large box on Christmas morning, only to be disappointed. They realize that reading, whether in a book or on a screen, is the same thing. It’s hard work, but it’s your work. No machine or teacher is going to do it for you.
It’s also interesting to watch them dig in when this happens. All the same avoiding strategies start to happen; trips to the washroom, need to fill water bottles, desire to do DPA, etc.
At the same time, there are a lot of positives. Already there’s been more engagement with text, and deeper learning I haven’t seen when they’re in their desks gazing at the wall in the distance over the top of their novel. So there’s hope.
The jury is out for me, and I’m willing to go down the road as long as there’s hope. It’s a fine balancing act where one measures return on investment. But in the interest of learning (mine too) we continue down that road.