MAT Blog

Technology is a tool for teachers, not a replacement for teachers!

Posted by Dreu Adams on Aug 20, 2011 9:02:00 AM

khan academy helpThe article on the Khan Academy was very interesting. I have seen teachers use many sites and programs and students do enjoy them and look forward to anything that includes technology in the classroom. Years ago, Playstation® had learning games that went into classrooms with great success. Leapfrog® is another tool that has been used with great success and is still in use.

Critics argue that Khan’s videos and software encourage uncreative, repetitive drilling—and leave kids staring at screens instead of interacting with real live teachers. However, I feel that Khan’s videos are only to be used as teaching tools; the teacher is still in charge. As always, the real teacher that sets up the learning is the key to successful learning. What Khan offers would be very useful in a truly differentiated classroom.

Benjamin Bloom’s research found that students who are given one-on-one attention reliably perform two standard deviations better than their peers who stay in a regular classroom. I think every teacher would probably agree that the smaller the group during instruction, the better the chance that they will get a more individualized form of instruction, which is obviously more productive. That’s nothing new.

Khan’s programming of Java modules that fire questions at students automatically and then advance them to a more difficult level is beneficial but also nothing new. This has been a common thread in Marygrove’s Master in the Art of Teaching (MAT) Teacher as Researcher projects set up by math teachers in the past. Most of us agree that students don’t get the drilling at home like they used to– and school has become very scripted and scheduled– which prohibits drilling or allowing any time for it.

After watching some of Khan’s basic addition videos, it is clear that students could sit in a classroom and not feel threatened at all while using them. Students would not be called on and they could go over the material as needed without appearing ignorant. That is a plus.

However, as schools have less and less money, it is often the computer labs that are lacking. I know from experience that many of the computer labs in Cleveland schools have old computers, and many of them do not work. Some classrooms make do with only two or three computers. Other districts have traveling laptop labs (rolling carts that carry up to 30 laptops) which are fantastic and would be great for something like Khan Academy.

I participated in a grant that brought virtual reality (VREAL Ohio) into classrooms and it was amazing to see the results in all subject areas! Technology is an awesome tool but again, it is only a tool and the person in charge of the classroom, in my opinion, has the most influence on a student and the learning that occurs.

Hester Bixler is a 35-year veteran K-3 reading and writing teacher who made her career in the Cleveland Metropolitan Schools in Ohio. Retired in 2009, Bixler is still involved in action planning with teachers and interpreters for the district. She has been a Marygrove MAT Mentor for twelve years and considers Marygrove to be “a cut above the rest.”

Tags: Khan Academy, technology in the classroom

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