What Tech Makes Possible

By Kerry Gallagher, TES Advisory Board member, SXSWedu panelist, and guest blogger

Kerry Gallagher is a Digital Learning Specialist at St. John’s Prep in Danvers Massachusetts and Director of K-12 Education for ConnectSafely.org, and she serves on our Teacher Advisory Board for TES.

Introduction: Watch Kerry Gallagher speak at SXSWedu on EdTech Policy

As an education thought leader, Kerry attended SXSWedu in Austin, TX and spoke in a panel, “Straight Talk from Teachers on EdTech Policy." During this session, Kerry joined a former governor and other policy-savvy educators to discuss their perspectives on EdTech policy “from data privacy to Bring Your Own Device models to broadband access… to give real-world insights on how federal and state policy impact their work” and the work of teachers everywhere. Interested? Watch the talk.

What Tech Makes Possible

I think when we talk about technology in the classroom, we aren’t always asking the right question. Instead of asking, “How can we use technology for learning?” Let’s ask, “What learning does technology make possible?”

Allow me to elaborate. Let’s take a look at some important types of learning in the classroom that technology makes possible.

Digital Collaboration

We all want our students to do group work, right? But, why? It is because we want them to learn to cooperate, give and receive critical feedback, and learn how to share responsibility. Let’s not look at technology as a barrier to those skills. Online platforms that allow them to mind-map, outline, and peer-edit their work make it possible for them to collaborate in-person, in class, and asynchronously outside of school. Our students deserve to pursue their passions on their schedules without sacrificing academics. Technology is making this possible.

Talking With the Experts

We all want our students to learn how to research with the best resources. What if technology gave them to power to bust out of the library? Don’t get me wrong, I have shelves full of books at home and in my office at school. I’m a book lover, truly. On the other hand, I believe in the power of pulling together selected, high-quality digital sources for my students. But, what if technology allowed students to go even further than that? My students have gone beyond books and websites and have used video chats to interview historians and entrepreneurs who are experts in the topics of their research. Technology is making this possible.

Instant Feedback

We all want our students to get the feedback they need as they learn. Moreover, we want them to use that feedback to improve their skills and knowledge before the BIG test. Historically, teachers gave intermittent pop quizzes for this purpose. Now, digital formative assessment tools are making it possible for students to take a quick assessment on their mobile devices as a bell-ringer or exit ticket, find out what they know -- and dont know -- instantly, and then use that information to plan their approach for their next class. Technology is making this possible.

Creative Assessments

We all want our students to demonstrate their learning though some kind of product. This approach used to mean assigning tests or poster projects. Now, thanks to smartphones, Chromebooks, and tablets, our students can record music and podcasts, create movie trailers and explainer videos, design avatars and animations, or write blog posts to showcase their learning. Now every child’s strengths can be amplified, thanks to the flexibility that technology allows.

Instead of seeing technology as something extra to add to teachers’ responsibilities, let’s start looking at the opportunities it presents for student learning. If we start focusing on learning, we will see what technology makes possible.