This past Saturday, I attended the first Tri-State Education Technology Conference (TSETC 2010) at New Milford High School in New Jersey. I found out about it from Lisa Nielsen, who did an awesome job as the Keynote Speaker. She is the author of The Innovative Educator blog and also the Technology Innovation Manager for the Office of Educational Technology at the New York City Department of Education. The conference was great. Most of the workshops demonstrated the “power of technology” in the classrooms and all the wonderful ways that technology can be integrated into instruction and professional development. There was also a whole lot of buzz about Social Media and its role in education. It’s all about connecting, collaborating, creating, and communicating with others. It made me think a whole lot about technology and its role in education.
Technology is often said to be a tool. Whereas most tools have a clear and defined purpose, technology doesn’t. I could be playing video games, and I could say I’m using technology, but is it meaningful? In education, we have to keep asking ourselves if technology is being used in a meaningful way. I feel when we think of technology in education, we picture the computers, interactive whiteboards, projectors, and all the other tech gadgets that are used in schools. Yet, it’s much harder for us to explain exactly HOW the technology is being used or WHY it is being used in classrooms.
This week, like any other week, Malachy got his Pre-K homework. It’s usually given on Mondays, Wednesday, and Fridays and due the following school day. This Monday, he was given a more unique assignment that’s due at the end of the week. It’s a worksheet from Scholastic, but instead of the typical circling, coloring, cutting, or filling out something, the assignment was to go on a Nature Walk. The instructions were to, “Go for a walk outside. Look for the things on this page. If you see one, circle it. It’s OK if you don’t see them all!” The rain finally gave way, so today, we were able to do the assignment! 😉
At first, it was just Malachy and me. I brought a camera because I wanted to document our homework and make it even more interactive. (Extra credit! 😉 ) After a few minutes of looking around and searching for the objects, two other kids asked what we were doing and asked if they could help us! They wanted in on this homework and wanted to help Malachy complete his assignment. So, we all walked around our building’s playground/park area, looking for the items. We were pretty sure we wouldn’t find a snail. Also, since there were no pine trees or oak trees in the area, the pine cone and acorn weren’t going to happen either. (Malachy and I did find an acorn later on. Or was it? 😉 ) What an awesome assignment this turned out to be!
Malachy’s homework “forced” us to interact with nature and with each other. We didn’t plan on getting outside help (networking!), but how cool was that to have others join in on the fun? This was a light bulb moment for me. To me, this assignment was like a microcosm of Social Media! It involved making connections, communicating, collaborating, and creating a meaningful experience.
It got me thinking about homework and technology and education. Homework shouldn’t be just between the student and a book or piece of paper. Technology shouldn’t be just between the user and a computer or other tech gadget. The goal should be about interacting and connecting with the outside world and with others and creating a meaningful experience. We should have more “nature walk” assignments for students, parents, and communities to work on together. When we learn together, we connect. Social Homework! 😉 That’s what it’s all about! 😉