I always thought I was a by-the-book learner. I don't mean that I learned the way "I should learn," or perhaps how "the teacher wanted me to learn," whatever those things mean. No I mean, quite literally, that I learned by reading books.
Reading was, for the most part, a good learning method for me. I liked reading. I owned several books. Books were a familiar and trust-worthy medium.
To put it bluntly, books were my friends.
Yes, that's right, friends. When I moved to Michigan ten months ago and stuffed my chevy impala with my life's posessions I ended up with a 1:2:2:10 box ratio. One box of pictures and mementos, two boxes of clothes, two boxes of kitchen ware, and ten boxes of books. You might well imagine the argument that ensued when my fiancé begged me to leave a few boxes behind (because, after all, he needed to fit his possessions in the car too). In the end I looked at him with tear-filled eyes and said, "I can't leave them. These are the items that will make me feel at home. These are my friends."
Now, at this point you might be saying a number of things to yourself: A) "This girl is crazy." B) "How in the world did she fit all those books in her car?" and C) "What does her obsession, or rather personification of inanimate objects, have to do with learning?" To which I would answer: A) "Well yes, but just a little." B) "Several of the boxes went on top of the car, not inside." And C) "Let me explain."
Because I had always primarily learned by reading books, the idea that I might learn and especially teach using other methods, such as technology, was a revelation. It was also slightly horrifying.
I found myself thinking, as I sat in my Teaching with Technology course, things like "That's ridiculous!" and "What kinds of shenanigans will they suggest next?" and "Don't they know books are sacred?"
And it's true, books are absolutely lovely. And it's also true that technology is sometimes horrifying. There's a wealth of information out there, not all of it good, and most of it not private.
But technology can also be beautiful. Especially if it's used for good. Especially if it's used to reach and teach children in new and interesting ways.
In Bill Sheskey's article "Creating Learning Connections for Today's Tech-Saavy Student,"he gives an example of how technology can be used for the good of the students. Sheskey brings a digital camera to class and starts taking pictures of his students as they are working on their science projects. At the end of the class he shows the students the pictures. What happens is amazing. The students start critiquing, analyzing and asking questions. They are able to see what they did wrong, what they did right, and what they can do to improve. This is visual learning at it's finest.
And it started me thinking "What are some ways I can incorporate technology into my classroom?" Yes, I'm an English teacher. Books will always be my primary focus. But understanding is acquired in many ways and through many mediums. Wouldn't it be wonderful if I could use technology to make books more accessible? Or use technology to relate the texts I'm teaching to other issues and ideas?
I could let my students watch a TedTalks on how schools can promote, rather than destroy, creativity. I could let them listen to the radio version of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, or War of the Worlds. I could have them record their own version of Macbeth for the class to watch. I could have them perform a radio play or podcast play of the court scene in To Kill a Mockingbird.
Suddenly, the possibilities are exciting and many. Suddenly, technology does not seem quite so scary. Suddenly, I have new friends and new tools to better help my students.
Now, I know what you are wondering. You're asking, "Did you discuss this new relationship with your other friends? Do the books know?" And even if you weren't wondering I'll tell you anyway.
Yes, I spoke to them. Every good relationship needs honesty. And I was. I was very honest. The books were quiet at first. Contemplative. Wary. But, eventually they came around to the idea of using technology in order to help students better understand texts. After all I was doing it for them, wasn't I? I planned to use technology only as a means to help students "get" what they're reading.
So they agreed. But on one condition:
They get full ownership of the book shelves.