Thursday, March 27, 2008

Find your tool & go with it

I've got a friend at another high school who has never been particularly interested in using technology. We would talk about different things, like CPS or projectors or whatever, and he would always sort of shrug and say, "I just can't see how I'd use that." Fair enough. And I have been rather underwhelmed by the tools available for math anyway.

However, after seeing the video from Johnny Lee about using the wiimote for whiteboards (see my earlier post on the wiimote project), he found something that he could use and he has totally taken off with it. Within a week of me showing him how this worked, he bought his own wiimote, built several IR pens from scratch, and has shown this to his entire department. He went from 0 - 60 in 1 week, mostly because he found something (FINALLY) that made sense for his instruction.

Perhaps the most interesting thing I heard him describe was the reaction of his students. Not only does he have students (not his own) stopping by his room to see the "cool wii thing," but he watched his typically unmotivated Geometry class get absorbed in content by using the wiimote whiteboard. He might just be a believer now in the technology-engagement connection.

Perhaps the most sobering thing he experienced was the reaction of his department. According to him, they seemed politely interested, but not a single person asked him to help them use it or try it with their own students. He couldn't believe it (but he has seen plenty of tools with a polite eye). My response was "Welcome to my world." Guess it just wasn't their tool.

This was eye-opening for me for a couple of reasons. A) I had basically given up on ever convincing my friend to use technology for instruction and B) people still need to be convinced that engagement increases when technology is involved. I wonder what the reaction of his department would have been if they had seen the response of the Geometry class?

Bottom line: find your tool and go with it. Not sure what your tool is? Maybe feeling like you're "just not sure how" you'd use technology? Maybe you've tried it and something just hasn't clicked? Find the technology person in your building (or from someone who you know uses technology effectively) and talk about what you wish you could do. Chances are, it's out there. And chances are you'll see a totally different class of kids when you use it.