I had to think about this post from two perspectives: an integrationist and a classroom teacher.
As a classroom teacher I loved having technology accessible in my classroom. Last year, my class of 18 students had access to 10 MacBooks. They were almost always in our room and we often would bug other teachers to let us take theirs from the carts too. But if you walked in the room, it was not always the case that the kids were glued to their computer.
Often the computers were just another tool – something at the ready should the student need it or just an integral part of the learning that was taking place in the same way the highlighters or post-it notes feature in our classroom.
We discussed what it meant to be responsible, approaching from a responsible user perspective (embedded in our class agreement to “Use Good Judgement At All Times” – thanks, Nordstroms). This didn’t eliminate foul play but it made it easier to deal with.
Most importantly, I tried to show my students how the use of technology was helping me as a teacher. I would conference with them about math using the Khan Academy coach interface and show them the incredible data I was collecting on their time on that site. I would set written assignments using Google Drive and comment in real time while they were still drafting ideas. I would create collaborative Wikis for the publishing of poetry. I would share blog post comments from their parents as soon as they came in to our blog. Technology was not an add-on, not an extra, not a time-filler. Technology was an integral part of how we learned.
In terms of breaks, multi-tasking, and balance, I think I did ok. My classroom was a pretty dynamic place and rarely would I be at the front talking. I am more of a set out the plan and step back kind of teacher. I know some kids in my fourth grade class quickly figured out how to chat with each other via Google and while I looked into policing this I preferred to let our class agreement and natural consequences take the lead. “You didn’t finish because you were on chat? So sad….extra work for you.” I was definitely conscious of not having the computer dominate the math class and built in lots of time for discussion, group challenges, individual conferences, and the use of manipulatives. Some days we didn’t use the computers. Some days we used them a lot.
As a tech integrationist, I think about this topic from a different perspective. When I think of managing devices I am thinking about the practical management of devices across an entire Junior School. What do I want the kids to know? To do? We set up so many routines at the beginning of the year for other things – why not tech?
As I kept thinking, I realized these ideas of balance, rest, and multi-tasking were universal. The same principals apply to most things – we don’t just have one friend, watch one show, eat one food item. The kids I work with have a lot of access to tech and view it primarily as a game or a toy. I see my role as one in which I challenge that perception by helping teachers embed it in their classroom learning.
I think that some teachers are scared we are going to end up as a version of this family:
But I challenge that. And I think we have to stop and ask ourselves why the kids are begging for their game, wanting to disappear inside their iPad. What are we doing as teachers to tap into their passions, their ideas? I think finding a Tech/Talk balance is key, as is providing students with options for expressing themselves that they can relate to.