Monday, July 7, 2014

A Case Against Expecting New Technology to Drive Engagement

When I first introduced my students to my 2:1 eMINTS classroom I thought my students would really love using computers to learn. I spent a lot of time teaching how to use them, how to keep them running (Windows...) and eventually how to access information with them. My students were very, very engaged. They weren't, however, engaged in the content I was supposed to be teaching.

Don't get me wrong, I am a slow learner. It took me a long time to figure it out. Their behaviors met my engagement checklist:

  1. Were they active? Check
  2. Were they excited? Check
  3. Did behavior problems decrease? Check
The problem was I forgot the real purpose of the technology, which was to make it easier for me to give my students great lessons to learn the school's curriculum. Notice that wasn't on my list?

Over the years I have noticed that students are very engaged when introduced in new technology. More often than not the engagement is with the tool though and not the content being taught. The truth is, until the technology, hardware or software, is less 'new' the students will be more engaged in the tool than what they need to learn from the content. 

Once again I will point out, new technology is no substitute for great lessons.