The Skillful Teacher in a Tech-Infused Classroom

I need a screen detox, or more specifically, a Facebook detox!  I am convinced of this after I read this article and tracked the hours I spent using my phone for the last 7 days.  The summary: Facebook is number 1 on my list with 47%. 

This isn’t a huge surprise since I read most of my news there, and I have been also heavily relying on Facebook to stay connected to my friends and family back at home, in Ecuador.  Regardless of my excuses, I realized the hours spent mindlessly browsing could be used in a more productive and fulfilling way. I am sure this is what a lot of us are experiencing in our lives: we are attached to our phones with apps created to be “addictive by design”.  No wonder some teachers might be hesitant to introduce more screen time in the classroom, or how parents are questioning why homework is done on a computer.  Sometimes, we feel that If we had a choice—and based on our own compulsive behavior with our phones—we would ban all electronics.

A few months ago, I started listening to the podcast, Note to Self.  In the episode below, the hostess talks to Anya Kamenetz, author of the book The Art of Screen Time.  She mentions that there aren’t conclusive studies to determine how screen time is affecting us; however, she encourages to ask ourselves if we are using electronics in a passive way or to create and connect. The big idea here, from a point of view of an educator, is to inform, support, and empower students to make better decisions about the amount of time they are spending in front of a screen.  “Enjoy screens, not too much, mostly together,” is what the author recommends.

If we follow Anya Kamenetz’s suggestion, the use of devices in the classroom must not neglect the social aspect of learning.  A lot of emphasis has been given to the 1:1 program; however, a pair or a group of students working with a single device, collaborating on a meaningful project, might be our preferred scenario.

Teacher role in learning environments infused with technology

In the mist of the technology era, the teacher is still the one who sets the mood in the classroom.  So, how would we combine an inspiring teacher with a technology-infused environment?   There are effective practices we must maintain and can be transformed with the use of technology.  Guido Kovalskys, in this article, argues that we are experiencing a transition where “the interactive lecture” is a way to incorporate well-known practices from the past with more student-centered learning experiences involving technology.

“Technologies like Nearpod, Socrative, PollEverywhere, Educreations, Desmos, Kahoot, Google Expeditions, Explain Everything and others, enable teachers to explore new possibilities for active learning by adding simulations, collaborative learning experiences, and opportunities to interact and create. When used properly, these tools can facilitate an environment for sharing, enable class-wide participation, and capture data about student comprehension or opinions in real-time.”

Moreover, there is still nothing more enticing and captivating than listening to a story. Great teachers are designers of experiences, and they also happen to be skillful storytellers. Traditional instruction of “delivering or covering” of information where students take notes is the opposite of what we want in classrooms.  Learning happens with engagement, where students are interacting with the information in order to make meaningful conclusions. As Dr. Christopher Emdin advocates in his TED Talk, teachers enter the profession wanting to “change lives”; however, very few are trained in the art of telling compelling stories and very few can create “magic”.  Dr. Emdin insists that “magic can be taught” by training educators to closely observe environments where storytelling is modeled at its best such as in rap concerts, barber shops, or black churches.  He calls it “Pentecostal Pedagogy”.  Memorable experiences designed by educators can only be enhanced by the integration of technology.

Managing tech in the classroom

Having clear expectations of how students are going to manage devices in the classroom is crucial.  I found the 5 tips given by Crystal Browing very helpful, especially the one suggesting to “recruit student tech support”.  She advises selecting up to two students in every class to act as helpers; she uses moments outside of class time to teach these students new programs she will introduce to the rest of the class so they can be prepared to assist others effectively.   In addition, I have found using an LMS (Learning Management System) such as Schoology, Google Classroom or Edmodo to post instructions, assignments, resources, and tutorials to be very helpful.  It permits students to learn at their own pace, be independent, and have access to resources even when they are not at school.

Final thoughts

Even though I will continue to track the time that I spend looking at my phone, it is more important to track how I am using it, and the same should be asked when thinking about our students:

What if, instead of asking our students to put their devices away, we instead ask them to consider how they might be using those devices to improve themselves and their community?”—Beth Holland, Edutopia

What do you think?

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1 Response

  1. Yasmeen says:

    Dear Carolin,

    You can’t imagine the number of times I have caught myself just aimlessly scrolling through my Facebook feed. I am at the point where I am contemplating removing the app from my phone!

    Your blog post has some really great points. First off, I am really looking forward to adding Note to Self to my podcast list. I absolutely think that as educators we need to have the discussion about screen time with our students. From my very rudimentary poll in my classroom, it seems like many of my students have access to screen time at home as much as they want! So I feel strongly that the screen time they have in class needs to be more meaningful. I like the idea of working in pairs instead of 1:1 really does help them learn how to collaborate more. Certainly at my 3rd grade level.

    Recruiting tech support is a fantastic idea! As a strategy it can help so much when rolling out new programs and alleviate some of the tension involved in using new apps etc. Also I think it would be cool to rotate the students so everyone gets a turn.

    Lots of great information in this post!


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