It's Not About the Technology

"Technology is useless without good teaching. We have countless technological tools at our disposable today. These tools range in cost from free to thousands and thousands of dollars. When we put innovative tools in the hands of innovative teachers, amazing things can happen. If you put these tools in the hands of teachers who are not willing to innovate, money has been wasted." [1]

"If a teacher can find ways to prepare students with the capacity to be creative and innovative, those children will be well prepared to face the future. Teachers who customize the learning experiences of their students to involve critical thinking and problem solving are doing their students a greater favor than those who misuse technology as a means of facilitating learning." [1]

During the summer of 2010, I traveled to Cusco, Peru as a volunteer to teach English to secondary students at an underprivileged school.  I was empowered to teach English as a volunteer for two weeks via the Global Volunteer Network who partnered with Maximo Nivel. This experience was one of the most difficult, yet rewarding challenges of my life.

I was placed in a school with little to no resources. The school had students from grades 6-12 and students were separated into classrooms by gender. All of the classrooms were the same. There was one window at the very top corner of the room, the lights would rarely work, there were old wooden single desks with chairs attached, there was a whiteboard with no markers or erasers and that was it!

I had no control as to where I was teaching, and who I was teaching each day. My classes ranged from 6th grade boys to high school girls and everything in between. Some days I would be teaching middle school boys, high school boys or high school girls. If I wanted any resources, I either had to bring them with me, or buy them at a store that was a far walk away. When I was teaching, I was unable to use any form of technology, so I realized I had to fall back on my good teaching.

So I thought to myself, "How do I engage these students? How do I spark their interest? How do I get them using inquiry? How do I get them learning?

After some brainstorming, I started to reflect on some of my best-practice teaching strategies that I use when I teach my students at home. I realized that with the help of technology, I always use:

So then I thought, how can I cater my instruction to these best-practice teaching strategies without the use of technology? Without the use of resources and materials?

I decided that I would break my students into groups based on their arts integration interests.  I instructed the students to arrange them selves into four groups: Singing/Raping, Acting, Drawing, Dancing.  I told them that they were responsible for creating a project to demonstrate their learning and understanding.  My lessons ranged from vocabulary, to writing, to speaking, to storytelling. The only part that I had control over was what I was going to teach them, and how I was going to teach them.

With only bringing a handmade "globe" soccer ball and purchasing minimal resources such as whiteboard markers, erasers, paper, pens and pencils I was able to create an effective English curriculum for two weeks.  Embedded in the curriculum that I developed, were also skills in teamwork, communication, creativity, responsibility and problem solving.  In addition, we also played some fun games such as Charades (by acting out vocabulary words) Pictionary (by drawing pictures of vocabulary words) and Peruvian Idol (by having the students sing or rap out clues to vocabulary words).

The moral of my story is that Technology is not the answer to an effective 21st Century Education.  The secret is to use good instruction and best-practice teaching strategies!

"Before anything else, the educational community (including state and national organizations, teacher preparation programs, and local systems) must recognize the need to change an overall approach to teaching and learning. The technology tools that we crave as teachers, will not be effective vehicles for instruction without an evolution in Mindset." [1]

  1. Edurati Review: It's Not About the Technology: