In the mid 1990s I considered myself to be quite proficient with technology integration in my first grade classroom. I applied for and was granted the opportunity to be a “Classroom of Tomorrow Today”. I received four Apple desktop computers to help me teach my students how to keyboard and practice academic skills. At the time integrating technology into the classroom included making computers accessible in the classroom and not isolated in a computer lab. Later, I participated in summer technology camps for teachers and even helped facilitate one. I taught my first graders how to make amazing KidPix slideshows that demonstrated not only their skills with the computer program, but reading, writing, and math skills as well! I was so excited when the iMacs entered my classroom in the later nineties, then the World Wide Web . . . and then life happened. You know, the crises that enter our personal lives outside of the workplace happen–divorce, parent illness . . . just life. And, my focus necessarily changed from those “extras” at school to home, from being a more innovative and cutting edge teacher to one who managed what were considered the more “essentials” of teaching elementary children.
In retrospect that time of crises seems like a “blink of the eye”, but during that “blink” a lot happened in the world of technology! Of course, like most people, I saw what seemed to be a whirlwind of change in our now very digital world. In the past few years and presently, I am learning to effectively use a SmartBoard and iPads as tools in my classroom. Today my first graders pick up an iPad with no apprehension and navigate their way through apps with little to no instruction. They “get” how to physically use the tool, but need guidance towards best usage to support their learning. And, they need a teacher who has “both eyes open” to the reality that her students need her to guide and instruct them as they develop their digital literacy as an integrated part of the school day. Using technology tools and digital communication is not an “extra” or a cutting edge innovation just to “try out” any longer.
Now, what seems to be a sort of “epiphany” that I just described is really not altogether new to me. In recent years as I teach using the tools of technology, I mindfully follow the instruction of my school’s technology specialist making sure that my students are digitally safe and using quality apps that are age appropriate. However, I have felt there is a “disconnectedness” or lack of natural flow between my daily instruction and digital literacy. Yes, I can blame not having enough iPads available all the time. But I can’t help but wonder . . . if I had six pencils in the room, could I make sure all children got to use one at some point in the day? As a digital immigrant, it helps me to make analogies to older technologies! And, yes, I absolutely could maximize the use of those pencils. So, why aren’t tools for engaging in digital literacy optimally integrated into my students’ school day? Is availability of iPads more of a factor than I realize? Is it because it is too expensive for my school to pay for more apps that would offer more instructional options? Is the fact that I am a digital immigrant who has a lower degree of automaticity in using these tools playing a part in that “disconnectedness” between daily instruction and digital literacy?
That last question is the one that has made me stop and reflect on my teaching practice most. And this reflection with “both eyes open” starts a new journey in my teaching career. My discoveries and learning on this journey will be the subjects of my future blog posts. I welcome any comments with helpful insights and guidance along the way!