Engage by distraction

I was listening to an NPR podcast from September 30th and they mentioned a one billion-dollar effort (in the LA Unified school district) in California to put iPads in the hands of every student. The NPR reporter and the CEO of Amplify (Joel Kline; No Child Left Untableted) talked about issues ranging from the iPad being a distraction to there not being enough data to support such an aggressive deployment strategy with technology.

Issues such as customized learning experiences and customizable tutors were talked about during this podcast to represent the pro-technology side in education. While I agree, there is much left to be said about a students’ curiosity. What happened to it? Many times children don’t have to think about a game to play or how to have fun because technology forces their hand in a certain direction. What happened before the education technology boom?

But no need to dwell on that question too long because technology is here and I don’t think it’s going anywhere any time soon. But should we (as educators) restrict the technology use or allow unlimited access? Often times I feel technology should be left without restrictions to see what students will or will not do. It would be amazing to see just how long they will use a social networking site before they get bored. In fact, a student exclaim (in class) ┬áthat he doesn’t think he would have any friends at all if it wasn’t for Facebook. I am more interested in what he would be doing with his time if Facebook didn’t exist? I’m sure the student would have some friends but just significantly lower in number. Knowing that the student was exaggerating, I think the same about learning if technology wasn’t here. What would learning look like if we didn’t have technology or didn’t limit it?

Being a computer teacher, I have had times when I am disappointed by the decisions students make and I have had very few times when a students’ curiosity overtakes them and pushes them in the direction of exploration via technology. I learned to engage the students by distracting them. I don’t put too many restrictions (if any) on the technology they use unless it disrupts the general or individual learning environment. Instead I engage and overflow them with skill based projects (in some circumstances) or ask provocative questions ┬áthat enable critical thinking and strong opinionated views. Pushing them to use technology to learn is difficult for me. However, I choose to distract their time-wasting habits in an attempt to engage and encourage them to learn more. I can’t wait for the students’ Genius Hour projects to be shared.

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One thought on “Engage by distraction

  1. Ralph Swan says:

    Well said! One of the many aspects of being an excellent computer teacher is the ability to know the difference between social pressure that leads to distraction and social pressure that leads to engagement.

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