TEACHING WITH TECHNOLOGY
I believe that humans learn best when we are using our hands. From birth, we manipulate the world around us to learn and discover how it works. When we seek to replace the physical world with the digital world, our minds and our bodies suffer. Similarly, in the classroom, when technology becomes a substitute for real life experiences, learning suffers. However, it is inescapable that our life in the 21st Century is saturated with technology. Many of our physical spaces have become digital spaces, especially in the middle of a global pandemic. As educators, it is critical that we teach our students to be good digital citizens, give students tools to successfully navigate their future, and use technology strategically in the classroom to enhance students’ learning.
Our lives are increasingly interwoven with technology. Most of us carry powerful computers in our pockets, which can connect us instantly to millions of people, and are also our cameras, phones, newsstands, calendars, address book, to-do list, and toys. Social media use is common, and even expected. In this reality, it is essential that we educate students to not only be responsible members of society, but to be responsible ‘digital citizens.’ Students must learn to be inclusive, informed, engaged, balanced, and alert in our “interconnected digital world” (Fingal, 2020; International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), 2020). I integrate lessons about media balance and well-being, finding digital downtime, self-regulation, protecting their privacy and security, as well as acting respectfully, responsibly, and with integrity online (Washoe County School District (WCSD), 2019). In my classes, I especially emphasize the importance of digital downtime and finding balance in the digital world.
Technology changes at an increasingly accelerating rate, so much so that the top jobs in 2010 did not exist in 2004 (Free Working Tricks, 2016). It is critical that we are teaching students skills through technology and through hands-on learning that they will bring to their work in the future, rather than ‘teaching for the tech’ which may soon be obsolete (ISTE, 2020; WCSD, 2019). I educate students who are empowered learners and problem solvers who seek imaginative solutions. I work with students to use new information logically and creatively as they construct meaning that builds on their prior knowledge. I help students learn communicate their ideas and solutions creatively and completely. I integrate technology into my lessons, but I hope to bring skills to students that they will use throughout their lifetime and an any job they pursue.
Technology in the classroom should not replace hands-on learning. However, by leveraging technology thoughtfully and strategically, educators can redefine how students are learning. The SAMR Model developed by Dr. Ruben Puentedura categorizes technology integration into the classroom into four levels: Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, and Redefinition (Davis, n.d.). When technology is used only as a substitute, there is “no functional change” in the task for the student (Davis, n.d., p. 3), and students are better served in working by hand. However, at the opposite end of the spectrum, technology can also be used to redefine a student’s work, “creating a novel experience” (Davis, n.d., p. 3). As an educator, I strive to keep physical materials in both my in-person and distance classroom as much as possible. However, I seek opportunities to leverage technology to redefine students’ experiences and their learning in ways that would not be possible without technology.
Working with our hands is the gateway to full learning and understanding. It is important for us to manipulate materials and to experience frustration and setbacks as we work through a problem. Educators cannot ignore the reality of technology in our life or our students’ lives, nor can we teach for the tech that simply may not exist in the future. In my classroom, I do not replace real world experiences with technology. I still focus on learning by hand while leveraging technology to redefine student learning. I teach students the critical skills they need in their future and help them to become ethical and responsible digital citizens.
Davis, L. (n.d.). A beginner’s guide to SAMR model. Schoology. Retrieved from
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Washoe County School District (2019). 21st Century competencies: A guide to planning instruction for 21st Century learners. WCSD 21st Century Learning. Retrieved from
Washoe County School District (2019, March 25). WCSD 21st Century Learning. Retrieved from