The evolution of teaching and learning has been celebrated by many different revolutions, and two major and basic concepts in education, reading and writing have seen their share of change. The earliest known writings stemmed from farmers needing to keep track of grains and livestock, and they were but pictographs and cuneiform on clay tablets (Baron). Writing developed similarly all over the world throughout history, and the most common thing about each civilization’s stylistic writing, was that it lived through ancient scholars teaching it to the next generation. As people have changed, so too have the ways we write and learn. Clay tablets and wedges gave way to ink and papyrus, which developed into pen and paper. As David Warlick suggests, today’s technologies are “the pen and paper of our time” (TeachBytes) and allow teachers and students to not just read and write, but to make connections outside of the classroom, thus being the “lens through which we experience much of our world.”
By putting technology into the hands of students and teachers, we are creating a more connected and engaging environment in which teachers and students take more responsibility for their own learning and sharing. With proper training and exploration of technologies in instruction, partnered with an open willingness and eagerness to make the infusion of integration routine and transparent, teachers will be able to make learning more individualized and applicable to real-world scenarios (Edutopia), preparing students for life in the work force.
Students and teachers now have the power to share what they are learning with the world and receive feedback from anybody; this makes the learning process more authentic and challenges the students to do their best work so that they can be proud of what they do. Once upon a time, I had to write a letter to the state of Montana requesting information for a report I was to write. If that project was being done today, with the resources that we have, the entire scope of that project would have been different from start to finish. You can find any information you are looking for on the Internet through a multitude of search engines and key words. There are different types of software that you could use to write a report, and even more types of presentation tools to share your information. There was one computer in the library that you had to sign out and was always booked, so everything was written with pen on paper. Had I the options of students today to present that information differently, which direction would I choose? Would I choose to present my information in a PowerPoint? On a website? A Prezi? A podcast? Or through any number of iPad apps, such as VideoScribe or Keynote? This differentiation is the key to enabling the ideal that all students learn and no child is left behind.
Technologies need to be available to every student and every teacher. I have seen firsthand what happens when teachers inadequately use mobile devices, or have such a fear of using them that they do not use them at all. Administrators, IT staff, teachers, and students need to all be on the wavelength in accepting these into the classroom, providing necessary training to reduce “tech-stress,” and improve comfort with the devices. In my undergraduate studies, I was taught that when using manipulatives in class to let the students play with them for a set time first and then they’ll be more focused when it comes to instruction. Let’s flip that thought and give tech to the teachers and let them play and explore. This will improve their familiarity with their devices that may give them trouble. Students are seeing tablets and iPads at home more and more and are becoming more familiar with those devices at a faster rate than their teachers. As educators, let’s continue learning and use what the students know to teach them, and show them how to unlock the world that lies in front of them.