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Michael Ogg is principal of Alton Elementary School in Brenham, TX. He taught at the elementary level for seven years, acted as an elementary assistant principal for three years and has been a principal for the past nine years.
1. In what ways can technology enable differentiated instruction and cater to multiple intelligences?
I feel that technology gives a teacher the extra flexibility to increase the amount of individual or small-group instruction to students. I have seen teachers use iPads as center stations in their class. Students work on an app that focuses around their learning objective that week. Meanwhile, the teacher can work with one or more students on a skill directed at their level. Walk into a classroom where a teacher does not use technology, and you might find students working at centers that lack engagement or academic rigor. Now don’t get me wrong—I have several teachers who provide quality centers that are engaging and offer a high level of rigor for their students. I simply see how the use of iPads—or any type of technology—in the classroom can easily assist the teacher in providing more productive centers.
In addition, the use of technology helps with progress monitoring of students. This can be extremely helpful when working with students who come into the classroom at different learning stages or rates. Teachers can track the progress of students and provide important feedback almost immediately. It is amazing to think that a few years ago, teachers would have to grade papers or tests to gauge the progress of their students. Today, if using the correct program, students can receive targeted interventions quickly. Again, the key would be to make sure that the classroom is using the correct technology program.
2. What’s the right amount of Web filtering for schools? Which sites should be blocked?
For me, it would depend on the type of school. Filtering sites for elementary schools would be different than what you would filter for high schools. The key is to make sure that we are teaching students the correct way to use the power of the Web. We have to help guide students on how to be responsible digital citizens.
Fortunately, I have not had any major issue with Web site access on my campus. I feel that most districts allow teachers and students the opportunity to submit an access request to certain sites. If they can explain how that site can be educational, they might be allowed to view it. I love the fact that there are so many avenues out on the Web to find information. While your district might block YouTube, you might find what you are looking for on TeacherTube. Districts should give students, staff and parents information on what sites are allowed at school. There might be too many to list all of them, but sharing some of the options could be helpful.
3. Has technology use ever interfered with student learning? If so, how?
Good question. I had an interesting chat on #TXed about writing, and this type of question was asked. I guess one would have to look at it on a case-by-case basis. Questions we need to ask ourselves include: How does each individual student learn best? Some students are visual and some are auditory learners. I guess you also could say that some would be tech learners and some would not.
I feel that students still need to write by hand rather than type. There is more of a solid connection with the learning when students physically write. I have seen the other side with the use of technology, however. I have had students who have had trouble forming their letters and words but when allowed to type on a Chromebook or computer, can create great stories. I recall a lesson that a teacher did using Educreations on the iPads. While helping her, I noted a student who was in tears. She was just having a difficult time getting her project to go. She got some one-on-one assistance, and things worked out fine. Yet it made me wonder: Would she have had the same upset feeling if she did the project without the iPad?
To this day, I have not seen technology interfere with learning. There can be challenges during that stage of teaching students how to use the technology, but after that, I am not aware of any major issues. I am sure, however, that at some point a parent or student might suggest that technology is a barrier. That’s why we have to make sure we individualize instruction for our students.
4. What can students learn from the success of Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Larry Page and other tech luminaries?
From these individuals, students can learn that there are endless possibilities. While one might think that technology is nothing more than wires and plugs, these pioneers show that technology is so much more. Technology is creative, inspiring, complicating, changing, moving forward, enthusiastic and powerful. I could go on and on. People such as these can encourage students to see challenges instead of problems and to ask themselves: What can I do to make the world a better place? These gentlemen and others took on the challenge of helping others. The process they used just happened to involve technology.
5. Which tech skills and literacies are important for students to have in the 21st century?
Again, I think it is extremely important to teach responsible tech skills to our students. Facebook, Twitter, texting, YouTube, etc., can be powerful learning tools, but they can also be very damaging if used in the wrong way. I feel that we need to approach teaching the 21st-century skills as we would teach our children on how to drive a car. You have to be aware of what you’re doing when driving. You also have to be aware of what you’re doing when using technology.
I also feel that while technology can be creative, it really cannot replace the creativity of a person. We cannot just throw technology out to the students and expect them to just jump up and learn everything. There is so much power in a teacher who is inspiring, creative, enthusiastic and passionate about teaching and learning. I am not sure that technology, by itself, will ever get to that point. When combining a high-quality teacher with technology, however, the possibilities are endless. So my point is that while technology can be very useful, students need to see it as a resource for adding to the talents and abilities they already have.