Technology not always necessary in classroom

Abigail Kruse and Abigail Kruse

Two Mondays ago, I completed my last lesson plan presentation assignment for one of my classes. It must have been one of the longest 30 minutes ever, but I made like Kimmy Schmidt and took it 10 seconds at a time.

The premise was simple: give my class of fellow college students a small sense of what it might have been like to be in hiding during the Holocaust, like Anne Frank or Bill Leons, a survivor who lived in the Toledo area.

Here is how I did it: to begin, I had my students sit still and be totally quiet for three minutes. That was hard enough, but then I had them walk across a two-by-four piece of plywood without making a sound.

My point is this: I created a meaningful and relevant experience for my students without using a drop of technology. Not only that, but I also got them out of their seats and moving, if only for a few moments.

My purpose here is not to brag about effective ideas [although if you are a fellow education major, please feel free to use them], but to share an epiphany I had during that lesson: maybe technology isn’t always the magic pill when it comes to the classroom.

Before the doubters show up, let me tell you what I mean. I think technology is great. I’ve had the chance to learn about several technological tools in depth in one of my classes and most of them I plan on using.

I definitely think it has a place in the classroom. I mean, how else could my own teachers have used Schoolhouse Rock to enchant my generation? If I had read the Preamble in a textbook instead of learning it to that catchy song from the video, I am positive I wouldn’t remember it today from fifth grade.

I just don’t think it needs to be the be-all and end-all of lesson efficacy.

I used to brush off claims from my mother and others of her generation and older that the increased focus on technology as a teaching tool in and of itself has had an implication outside the classroom, but I’m starting to change my mind.

A few years ago, one of the parents at my Irish dance school posted a picture on Facebook that she took at a dance competition. It was a group of tween dancers sitting around waiting for results — every single one of them absorbed in their phones — and her caption made me laugh: “What did we do before smartphones?”

“Talk to each other,” another parent commented.

In the magnificent video “Look Up,” one line stood out to me in particular: “I can’t stand the silence of a busy commuter train, where no one wants to talk for fear of looking insane.” I think it’s sad that talking to each other in public spaces, whether at a dance competition or on the subway, isn’t the norm anymore and would be grounds for questioning somebody’s sanity.

Children, especially today’s children, need to learn how to interact with each other. They need good old-fashioned face-to-face conversation. It is true that today’s workplaces are more electronic than ever and we need to prepare students for that, but we also need to impart to them that it’s okay and healthy to be unconnected and live in the moment, if only for a little while.

That is why I will absolutely use technology in my future classroom, but not unless it is perfect for my purpose.

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