Monday, October 02, 2006

Under Pressure

First I should say that having laptops in the classroom has transformed my students' projects, engagement, and organization in positive ways that I hadn't anticipated, and I'm extraordinarily grateful for this.

But next I need to address some of the struggles I face almost daily because of being in a "laptop classroom." I feel some days that I'm letting down both my students and the other technology teachers because I'm not using the laptops daily in my classes. The only class that has used them each period has been my first hour class, but this will probably change once we start Fahrenheit 451. In my Honors American Literature classes, I use the laptops for only part of the period, maybe 2-3 times per week. I know that the technology has endless potential (not to mention that it was quite expensive), but I can't bring myself to make my class revolve around the laptops. Should I make this more of a priority? I hate to waste opportunities.

For example, I'm at the point in the semester where I'm beginning to introduce the philosophy book project to my sophomores. Last year, one of the greatest parts of this project was the freedom and individuality it encouraged. This year, I'm tempted to give them a little more structure for this project so that they use the technology at their fingertips. Between the blog, photostory, wikispaces, etc. etc. there is a plethora of exciting opportunities. But would this limit them or open new doors? Am I old fashioned for shutting my door to the laptops 2 days a week and having old fashioned activities?

One other confession...I love books. And I'm not talking about electronic books that talk to you and look up your vocabulary words. I love how paperback books feel in my hands. I love getting lost in libraries. I like falling asleep with a book open on top of my stomach or loosely clutched in my right hand. I am wary of a world where people like me are just getting older, and everyone else is content with the efficiency of their online texts. As much as embrace and value what the classroom set of laptops has brought to the classroom, and I would never want to go back to a classroom without them, I am scared of the holes that they leave.


Blogger Karl Fisch said...

You are not letting anyone down. As we've said many times - but apparently not enough - it shouldn't be about the laptops. You should use them when you think they are appropriate and can enhance and extend your students' learning. And you should leave them shut away in their comfy carts when they don't.

As far as the philosophy book project - if it was successful before and you don't think the technology will necessarily make it more successful - don't change it. Keep the freedom and individuality. Use the technology if you want to extend that freedom by allowing those students that want to use the technology as part of the project to use it, but those that don't shouldn't feel compelled to.

I think many of us love books, but not everyone is going to love them in the same way you do. Continue loving them in your own way, but don't assume that people love online texts just for the "efficiency." People who truly care about books care about the ideas - and I think those can usually (but maybe not always) transcend the medium.

Technology is always a trade-off, in this case easier access to ideas - sometimes to ideas that would never have been known before - in exchange for the tactile "experience" of reading a book. But I imagine the same conversations took place not long after Gutenberg invented his infernal printing press, robbing humankind of face-to-face contact and conversation and isolating each person behind the walls of a book.

Please, release the pressure - we are certainly not intending to place it upon you. Do what's best for your students - every day.

9:43 PM  
Blogger Michelle S said...

Ms. Kakos--I have to agree with you on your confession. I love books as well, and I can't bear to imagine a world in which there were no paperbacks to savor on a rainy evening by the fire. One fear I have is that by the time I want a book published, there won't be publishing presses--only the Internet. Perhaps Mr. Fisch is right, the ideas transcend the medium, and perhaps I just hate change, but I couldn't bear if the experiences with tactile books went away.

Also, I think what we've been doing with the laptops is plenty--don't force yourself to integrate them into the curriculum. Most likely there will be weeks where we hardly use the laptops at all, and others where we use them a lot. The technology does allow us to have opportunities, but "old-fashioned" methods have worked, as you said, so why throw them away? Maybe you should give us the option to use the computer for the philosophy project--my guess is that most people will choose to use them. But some people won't want to use the laptops, and I think that's ok. However, it's up to you to decide what the limits are.

Just a personal confession: I am not a big technology person. Sure, I can use a blog--all I really have to do is type. But I don't really know how to use things like multimedia or workshops to create presentations. I, personally, would be hesitant to use these sources on a project. However, I am open to new ideas, so if you really wanted us to use these technology features, I will take the time to learn how to use them.

10:53 PM  

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