This seems to be a recurring question as we struggle with integrating technology into our classrooms, and it’s one of the most common reasons teachers use to maintain the status quo in their teaching practice.
Because the pace of change with technology makes it impossible to be an expert, we need to let go of the paradigms of the teacher being the “all-knowing expert” that we have held onto for decades.
This doesn’t mean that can simply give our students iPads and not have any understanding of how the device works; it means that it’s ok to use the digital tool in the classroom, even if we are still in the process of figuring out how students might use it to enhance their learning. If we can do this, it allows us the potential to become co-learners with our students.
Here’s an example from my math class last year: one of the summative assignments was to have students demonstrate their understanding of angles formed from intersecting and parallel lines by building a truss bridge. I decided to give students the option to either build their bridge using kabob sticks and plasticine, or build a bridge virtually using Minecraft. Regardless of how students chose to demonstrate their geometric understanding, the success criteria was the same.
Admittedly, I was apprehensive because my familiarity with Minecraft was limited to knowing that students were able to build structures. I had done a bit of exploring with the game, but since I’m well over the age of 14, I didn’t’ really get it.
Nevertheless, I still gave my students the option, with the proviso that if they ran into technology issues with Minecraft, they were completely on their own. I had 3 groups who decided to create their bridge virtually and it worked extremely well; students were engaged and they were able to demonstrate their learning with a great deal of effectiveness. If I had waited until I knew the fundamentals of Minecraft better, it’s unlikely that I would be able to use it in my classroom, and my students’ learning wouldn’t have been as rewarding.
Allowing students the option to use digital tools requires a leap of faith, especially when we’re not 100% confident in our own knowledge, but it’s a practice we need to develop to create engaging learning environments where we are co-learners with our students.