The essential question for me is not “Should we incorporate technology in the classroom?” but rather, “To what extent should we incorporate technology in the classroom?” There are so many different gadgets that have become tailored to serve educational purposes—iPads and other tablets, kindles, nooks, and other eReaders, websites and apps. Each have proved their place in the classroom over the years, and have become increasingly more accessible and beneficial for both teachers and students.
One teacher who seems to value the importance of technology in his classroom, and has pledged to incorporate it as whole heartedly as possible, is Mr. Hays, an 8th grade ELA teacher. This year he has embarked upon a new challenge and has decided to “step away from the traditional classroom,” trying to see just what he and his class can do online. He explains, “I want to step away from the traditional classroom for a while and see just how much we can do online. Between electronic textbooks, blogs, interactive sites, social networking, and digital portfolios, we should have more than enough tools at our fingertips to work with.”
Mr. Hay’s has set up a WordPress account for his students where they can have access to an array of resources. He has very neatly created a page where his students are linked to sites where they will create and manage their own blogs, can read from their selected textbooks, remind themselves of the classroom rules, and even look up and turn in assignments.
This paper-free class experiment is a fascinating model of what a classroom that embraces technology with open arms can look like. However, even Mr. Hays points out the hardships of literally going paperless. In one of his first blog posts to his students in which he asks them to go out and buy a composition book, he explains the irony of his assignment, writing, “Well, until we all start walking around with iPads and tablets every day, we still have to have something concrete to carry around with us.”
We have a long way to go before we start walking around with only an iPad in our backpacks and a cellphone in our pockets, but the day we do is right around the corner. In order to prepare, we must begin to challenge ourselves as teachers, gradually acclimating ourselves to the new digital age. I challenge the educators reading this: Find a few unique websites, and ask yourself, how can I use this in my classroom? We can’t all be Mr. Hays, but we can sure challenge ourselves one day at a time! Finally, we could relieve our students of the millions of handouts we create, print, and distribute, and in addition, we could clear our desks of papers, papers, and more papers!