Jeff Paulson – an elementary teacher, instructional coach, and educational consultant – works with teachers to improve instructional practice. He has also contracted with the U.S. Department of Education to conduct nationwide professional development for teachers. Many of his effective classroom management techniques are based on a simple principle – if students are offered goals for learning that are authentic and relevant, they will work towards those goals and for the most part avoid spending energy in misbehavior. Here, he shares practical ways technology in classrooms can help teachers design lessons with relevant goals for student learning.
New Classroom Technology, an Asset to Classroom Control
On a typical day, some of Paulson’s fourth grade students may be updating the class wiki space by researching an aspect of the current Social Studies unit. Other students are recording their personal narratives as podcasts and uploading them to the school website. Others are conferencing with Paulson before posting persuasive arguments as blogs. And another group uses a Flip camera to record a Science experiment to post as a video podcast.
In Paulson’s opinion, new classroom technology is a useful tool, but definitely a means rather than an end. “Technology is not the silver bullet to education,” he admits. “There’s nothing magical about it, and several studies have shown that simply adding technology to the curriculum will not affect test scores in anyway. As the McKinsey report stated in 2007, ‘The only way to improve outcomes is to improve instruction’.”
Benefits of Classroom Technology Integration to Classroom Control
Technology – in the right instructional hands – gives students a culturally relevant way to publish their own writing, including text, audio, video, and multi-media. “It is differentiated, it is immediate, and it also provides a forum for feedback, by allowing readers to comment,” remarks Paulson.
As any teacher knows, writing is much more than simply putting words together and uploading. There are many things to master: grammar, vivid language, content, and presentation. “It’s been my experience,” Paulson says, “that students are more motivated to excel in these areas when they get to publish in a way that is real to them. Many students don’t like to write and avoid it at all costs. These same students go home and create social networking sites, blogs, and videos for You Tube. They collaborate with other online users in a variety of media. Any teacher that doesn’t recognize the value of this is missing a huge opportunity.”
Classroom Technology Integration Into Relevant Learning
A third grader introduced himself to Paulson a few years ago on registration day by writing down the web address of his YouTube video site. Paulson remembers this as one of his first wake-up calls to the relevancy technology can bring to student learning. “Just like adults,” Paulson remarks, “children are motivated to write when they know someone else is going to experience it. They have this innate need to create. And who wants to create or write something if it’s not going to be published?”
At that time, Paulson wasn’t quite as tech savvy as he is now. On a whim, he asked his students to complete a research project using technology to assemble and present the research. Some students chose to create a web site complete with photos, video, links, and text, one created a podcast, and a few used the internet, digital cameras, and color printers to make a display board for an oral presentation.
“I didn’t know enough about creating video for the web or about creating a web site,” Paulson laughs. “I probably should have learned a little more about it all before jumping in the deep end of the pool. In a lot of ways, the students forged the path, and I have learned what I’ll do differently next year. It reminds me of a quote I heard somewhere. I think Alvin Toffler said, ‘The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.’"
In related articles, teachers will find a detailed explanation of relevant learning and how it directly impacts classroom control, practical ideas for classroom technology integration including blogs, wikis, and podcasts, as well as effective classroom management techniques for establishing a climate of respect.
Quotes and information gained through conversation with Jeff Paulson on October 9, 2009.