Are You Paying Attention?

I hope I’m paying attention.

Paying attention to what is going on in the world around me, and hopefully bringing it into my classroom.  Currently my students are journaling…using pen and paper.  Many say kids can’t write anymore, we don’t teach enough handwriting, if we do at all.  But, do I even need to say it?  Nobody writes with a pen and paper!  We text.  We blog.  We use a word processor with spell check.  I am relevant as an educator if my students use outdated technology?  I can’t answer that.

I currently work at a small school, K-12, the secondary department (7-12) does all instruction/learning with a Macbook.  Cool, I think.  We, over here in Elementary don’t get that technology.  I’m not writing this to express bitterness, rather to say that next year I’ve heard the grade sevens will no longer be using the Macbook.  I believe it has something them being unable to handle the responsibility of a laptop.  In other words they play too many video games and don’t do enough “schoolwork”.  I wonder whether prohibition is the answer.  Shouldn’t they instead be taught responsible behavior, and be monitored?  I would love to have to have laptops in my classroom.  I could do amazing stuff!  I would happily guarantee that no video games were played.

I know from my experience that in order to engage kids you have to come at them with some kind of relevance.  A laptop in the classroom would be one way to do this.  It just needs to be managed like any other learning tool.

I watched this video on teacher tube this morning, and it is the reason I am blogging this afternoon.  I have several blogs for my classroom, but this is the first time I’ve done it purely for the sake of creating content.  I figure the more I can engage in the technology swirling around me, the more I can show my students how to use it constructively and creatively to make their time spent in my classroom connect to the lives they lead, and will lead.    The last thing I want to be is that irrelevant teacher with the come over, that is still using his lesson plans from 2009 in the 2039.

I’ll leave you with a link that has got me thinking.    Pay Attention

6 Comments Add yours

  1. Steph McDonald says:

    Hi Patrick,

    I’m glad you’re reflecting on the use of technology in the classroom. I have spent the last five years teaching at a technology-rich school. Benefits I have experienced are:

    1) using internet to assist research tasks in class, rather than using books/encyclopaedias that quickly get out of date
    2) using mathematics sites for enrichment tasks, to assist with teaching particular concepts (‘Maths 300’ is an excellent site) and to make Math learning fun (sites such as ‘Mathletics’ encourage competing in online math quizes with students around the world).
    3) using computers as an alternative way to publish, rather than the old “good copy” or “poster” format all the time
    4) using one of the literally thousands of great sites to assist with any reading/writing programme. There are many other things I could list but…
    5) last but NOT LEAST….I was lucky enough to spend two years teaching with an electronic whiteboard….


    And no. It doesn’t replace teaching. It never does. But it is one of the greatest teaching tools to have in a classroom, ever.

    No more problems with projectors and mucking around with screens.
    The whiteboard is there ready, on a separate board, different to the whiteboard with markers.
    It is an instant teaching aid. No more looking for posters or signs to stick up the front. Just search for the flipchart or interactive tool you need.

    For example, you need a map of the world. The interactive board library has a world map (colored or black and white). Just search and an instant map is there, ready to download within seconds. You can draw on this map with electronic markers, then save your teaching notes and print, or simply erase for the next demonstration.

    – students can present their projects on the interactive board – much more stimulating for the students
    – teacher doesn’t have to spend a lot of time erasing the board before they start a new lesson – click a button and whole board will erase
    – less need for physical tools such as timers, dice, 2D or 3D shapes to begin your lesson – it is all there in the electronic library, ready within seconds. So saves on clutter in the classroom.

    Again, always, a good teaching programme will use technology to ASSIST with teaching a concept, not teach the concept itself.

    I don’t agree with the argument that if students are given a laptop, all they will do is play games. A good teacher knows how to encourage the use of technology for learning. Games are a secondary issue, once the lesson is over, sure, the students may play games. A good teacher ultimately decides this, though. In a 4th Grade classroom, my students were involved heavily with technology nearly every lesson. But in free time or rainy days, they were never allowed on computers. I simply asked them not to. If enough alternatives are provided, students will learn how to play other games.

    Second point: No matter how good technology is, I never want to de-value handwriting, or writing, as a skill. It should never be skipped at school, because we actually do still use a pen and paper a lot in our daily lives. Just think of writing down a shopping list, taking notes when someone gives us directions, or scribbling down our thoughts on paper. We need to pass on this skill, just as our parents needed to pass on traditional skills such as cooking a meal, sewing a garment, or building a desk. School shouldn’t just be for training a student for the workplace…a school’s purpose is to instil a love of life-long learning, both in and out of the classroom. Not every student will work in an office, and we don’t want them to.

    There are many other things I can write!
    Thanks for starting the dialogue.


  2. holtspeak says:


    Thanks for responding! You are officially my first commenter

    I must say, having re-read my post, I didn’t mean to imply that we should do away with handwriting as a skill in the classroom. Rather, I was trying to get at the fact that the structure of Education today reflects a world that no longer exists. For the most part a lot of schools still reflect the 19th century notion of creating happy industrial workers, rather than turning forward and looking at what kind of workers we are going to have in the future. The difficulty is that we don’t even know what kind of jobs are students will be doing, so we need to prepare them by utilizing as much of the current technology that is available.

    I think that the pencil and paper, desks in neat little rows represents a certain kind of front loading teaching style which is currently irrelevant. Technology should be a tool for creating, as you said, life long learners. Classrooms should be centers of student centered exploration…the actual facts learned in Social studies are important, but not as important as the process of researching, processing, and presenting them to an audience.

    It is likely that the current generation will have a smart phone (that is way smarter than the current ones) that will give them access to more information that they know what to do with, at any time they choose. As educators we need to build skills in our students that help them use this info usefully. Knowledge, and information is no longer static, and we need to teach with that mindset.

    Technology is the direct access into the information superhighway, so it must become a fundamental skill, as important as those ol’ three “Rs”!
    Where som of my thought came from:

  3. Jon Holt says:

    You speak about “the 19th century” teaching style and about how you would like to adjust to modern technologies, but in my recent exploration of the topic I’ve come to a couple of conclusions:
    1) Teaching is no longer a delivery activity. Kids today are about choosing the time and modality of the information they receive. They want it when they want it and they want it in the medium that is most convenient at that moment. So, while teaching has always been a process of finding different ways of conveying the information so that students with different styles can process it, the challenge now is to spread that out across multiple media and do it in a manner that is still engaging when it’s asynchronous.
    2) the biggest change between our/my generation and that of new students is the concept of fidelity. My generation lived through the conversion of analog to digital, so we are concerned with the accuracy and the resolution of any digital work. Students today have always been a digital creature. The concern for quality is overpowered by the desire for information that can be co-located/concurrent with experience: they’ll take lower quality if it can come over their phone. Look at the divide between all the HD tv signals out there and the popularity of YouTube.
    As we move forward, things like writing will still need to be a skill taught, but the conversation about whether or not technology _can_ be included in the classroom will end. Students will stop being able to learn if it isn’t included. Those that understand that now will be regarded as the “go-to-schools” in the future because their kids will be doing so much better than the rest because they’re operating in a mode that is relevant to the students.

  4. Will says:


    Since when have “we” been creating C19 industrial workers and where? Zimbabwe? Where are the neat little rows (presumably in uniform?) in this school?

    Anyway, lots more opinions (obviously, I’m a teacher!) so why not have this as a whole school PD day?

  5. holtspeak says:


    You make some interesting points.

    First of all, the one that I experience all the time, but had not really thought about is how this generation of students will compromise quality for immediacy in digital information. I hate blurry, low quality video that often is found on you tube. However at times I use it because if fits my needs. I always apologize for the quality, but my students never care and seem to enjoy whatever they are seeing regardless of the viewing quality. I always find this strange. I like how you articulate this behavior as “quality is overpowered by the desire for information that can be co-located/concurrent with experience…”
    Secondly, though I agree in theory that teaching is no longer about direct delivery, and I definitely try to do more experience/explore/synthesize type projects to engage students, I’m not sure how students “choosing the time and modality of the information they receive” will work. I know the teacher role is changing, hence why I’m engaging in this conversation, but I wonder still at how this kind of classroom will look/work.

  6. Jon Holt says:

    I’m with you on the “I don’t know how it will work”. Remember, as a technologist, I’m more about leveraging and enabling through the technology, not about ensuring a quality education. Its the teachers and schools that figure out a way to steward students in the right directions amidst all this mumbo jumbo that will be the keys to the future. Congrats on being at the leading edge.

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