Hi guys. First, thanks for taking the time to read my blog, share what is on there, and even more importantly: to critically consider and reply to the points. Let me provide some additional insight/food for thought/conversation.
1) The point above about both doing and thinking is valid. However, my post was a reaction to seeing and hearing about technology use that had clearly not had any thought behind it. (Obviously I didn’t link to these instances because I’m not in the business of making people feel bad). So, yes teachers ought to be both thinking and doing technology. However, if more people were thinking at high levels, we might actually see less doing. This leads me to my next point.
2) Your point about broadening our view of technology is also important, but I would go much farther than you did. The chalkboard has probably been the most influential technology to enter education and it still does many things better than either a whiteboard or a smartboard. For example, drawings that include shading (i’m a science teacher) are nearly impossible with a white board, and while a smart board can display high quality images, the students don’t get to see the teacher create the drawings. When we see someone create we get insight into their thinking and their process. If an image just “appears” on the screen, the thinking required to create the image is opaque.
3) So, lets think about the technologies you did mention. I agree with your points, but I also know that every technology has a trade-off. So let’s consider those. Email does allow for more efficient communication, but it also creates an impersonal environment. Furthermore because you lose the ability to show emotion, emails are easily misinterpreted and immediate reactions of the parents cannot be gauged and then appropriately reacted to. Yes, calling home takes time, but the benefits are well worth the extra time. I remember calling home once to express concern about a students falling effort and grade. The parent nearly immediately informed me of a very personal issue the student was dealing with. From then our conversation became more about helping the student through the situation and less about the grades. Had I emailed, the dialogue would not have been as productive because it would not have been as immediate. I can’t show the same kind of caring in an email that I can on the phone. Even better is to meet with students face to face. This is why parent teacher conferences are so important and should be held more than once a year!
Electronic grade books are great and I used one when I had to, but when I have a choice, I do not. We already have a huge problem in education with students and parents being overly concerned with grades instead of learning. What we do by having online/electronic grade books is encourage helicopter parenting. Also, we remove all context from the grading system – parents and students become concerned with points when they should be concerned with learning. Also, I encourage students to keep track of their own grades and how to calculate them. This teaches them responsibility, math skills, and self-assessment. If I just show them a number calculated by a computer, they miss out on the benefits I just mentioned.
So yes, email and electronic grade books make things EASIER, but that does not make them BETTER. Whenever we use a technology we give something up, the decision we have to make is if the advantages outweigh the things we lose.