As author Brenda Dyck puts it in this article, the goal of teachers in technology integration should not be on the tool, but rather what the tool can do for you. I wholeheartedly agree with this goal in essence. She next states that: “The effectiveness of technology is watered down when laptops are used solely for basic word processing, haphazard surfing, or creating jazzed-up PowerPoint presentations.” Again, I couldn’t agree more.
The rub comes when she begins discussion of how teachers might get to the “mind meat” as she relays it from technology writer Jamie McKenzie. She then proceeds to describe a model project called “Fluttering Butterflies”, wherein students use, of all things, wait for it… a word processor to “keep logs in which they documented their observations about classroom butterflies”. As I said above, I agree that glitz means nothing without substance. However, when kids are being asked to watch butterflies there is no compelling reason I can see to go to all the trouble of pulling out computers. This is a task far better suited to a paper & pencil “science notebook” or the like. After all, the vast majority of working scientists today (who are the only folks getting paid to peek in at butterflies) still scribble notes in a journal. This allows true scribbling, diagrams, schematics and other non-linguistic representations. Relevance is key to education in the 21st Century.
She spoke of this activity providing a platform for kids to hone observation skills as well as fostering meaning making. I agree that such an activity does just that. In fact, as a classroom teacher of both zoology and marine biology, I have students conduct quite similar activities at the high school level. However, as a teacher who not only has the benefit of 32 wireless laptops at his disposal, but is also being paid as an instructional coach to bring our building up to speed in terms of technology integration, I wouldn’t think of dragging out laptops for such an event. This would only be cumbersome at best.
It would have been nice to see the actual site for the butterfly project, but as of publish time for this post, Fluttering Butterflies is no longer an active link. Big surprise for an article written six years ago in 2002.