I have been integrating meaningful technology into my classrooms since 2010, trying my hardest to find tools that would help my students find an audience, spark their passion, and find their voice. I wouldn’t call us tech infused, I don’t use a lot of tools, but the ones we do, I love. And yet…I cannot help but feel that sometimes I stand in the way of my students and the technology they use. That sometimes the parameters I set up hinder rather than grow.
It is not from a place of fear, I am all for technology and using it well. It is rather from my own ignorance. Often I don’t know what I don’t know. Often I don’t know whether a tool will work for the thing we are doing. Often I get a little scared, wondering whether they will be able to be successful if they veer off the beaten path. Often I assume that I have to be the expert and this should know everything and have all of the answers, giving all of the permissions. But the big thing is; I have forced myself to recognize this and boy, did it make me feel uncomfortable.
How often do we as teachers let our own fears stand in the way of what we “allow” students to do? How often does our own lack of knowledge of a tech tool (or anything for that matter) prompt us into saying no, rather than yes? How often do we dismiss rather than invite?
So the next time we propose a project, how about we ask students what tools they want to use? What tools do they already know? Rather than rush into creation take a day to explore tech tools that may benefit all. Have students teach each other. Share your own knowledge. Open up your classroom and show your own place as a learner. Acknowledge that perhaps tech scares you, or perhaps trying a new thing leaves you worried about time line. Perhaps you are not sure a tool will work or that the students will get it. So what?! Embrace this fear and allow it to push you forward, rather than hold you back. Let students see that their ideas, voices, and prior knowledge matters. And not just to make them feel heard but to change the way learning happens within our classrooms.
Technology tools surround us, with more being added every day. We cannot keep up. We cannot be the only experts. If we truly have a community of learners in our classrooms then students’ knowledge has to be embraced. So don’t say no when a child asks if they can use a new tool. Say yes. Embrace the fact that you may not know it and learn along with them. Admit your own fear, admitting your own lack of knowledge will only show students the power of doing just that. Be a learner with your students every day.
cross-posted at pernillesripp.com.
Pernille Ripp is the the author of Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classroom Back to Our Students, creator of Global Read Aloud Project, and co-founder of EdCamp MadWI. She teaches fifth grade in Verona, Wisconsin, and blogs at http://pernillesripp.com.