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Sharing through PNL’s

the positive edtech contaminator


Not that long ago, sometime just before the Renaissance, it was actually possible for someone to have accumulated the entire sum of human knowledge. Today, even the brightest scientists of the world can’t be aware of all the current data on their specific fields of study! 

Now, just for a moment, think about education.

Every day of every year, in most countries of the world, educators are questioning the effectiveness of their methods and adapting to a multitude or learners with different learning styles and challenges. Add to that the reality that society itself is undergoing change at a speed never before seen, and you have but a glimpse of the prodigious amount of new educational ideas and practices brought into existence every day!

Professional development through social media must now become second nature. And what makes social media so powerful? Sharing.

But don’t take my word…

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How I plan to ‘highjack’ Ethics class


Ah, summer! Time to unwind, relax, spend much needed time with my family… And get really excited about September!

Those of you who have read a few of my past articles know that my High School will be implementing a school-wide BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy in a few weeks. I’ve pretty much always strived to make whatever subject I was asked to teach relevant to my students, but the new direction we will be taking provides me with a golden opportunity to re-examine most of what I’ve been doing (for the past 14 years!). And I happen to be at exactly the point in my life where I consider this exhilarating!

To make it even sweeter, I’ve been asked to tag on an ‘Ethics’ component to my grade 10 History class. Principals have tried to get me to teach ‘Ethics’ to complete my workload for years now, but I’ve always found ways to get out of it, even if it meant an event bigger workload. But our new BYOD policy gives me the opportunity, and legitimacy, to ‘highjack’ this course and turn it into what will basically be a Digital Citizenship course based on facts and critical thinking.

I know that most of us consider this ‘Digital Natives’ generation as a bunch of kids that know almost everything about technology and social media. And it probably is true that most teens feel more comfortable singing up for a Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest account that most teachers I know. But, besides chatting up their friends or posting pictures, most of them don’t use these tools to their full potential. Even worse, many teens aren’t truly aware of the destructive potential of the social media sites they use. Worst of all, the haven’t given a thought to how they can and should control their digital identity as an investment in their future.

I want to make my students ‘digitally’ aware, but I would also like to provide opportunities for them to build a positive digital identity.

I’ve been hearing about digital portfolios for a couple of years. Although I like the general idea, I tend to favor using tools that are likely to exist and still be useful once they have graduated. So, although teacher or school controlled digital portfolio platforms address online security concerns, they aren’t my first choice.

I find that blogging can be a very educational experience; for the writer as well as for the reader. I’m planning on asking my students to create a blog, either with WordPress or Blogger (owned by Google). This in itself leads to questions such as: “Why do people write blogs?”, “What can I get out of reading someone else’s blog?”, “What makes a great blog article?” or “What should I not write in a blog post?”.

These questions can then lead into a discussion about our digital identity and how it has a very real impact on our real identity and then to lessons, emphasised by real stories that have made the news, about what we should and shouldn’t ever post on the web, for our own sake. Hopefully, the answers to all these questions will be as diverse as the students in the classroom. Although we will probably agree on the more extreme scenarios, we each have our own background and moral compass. They might actually make great blog post subjects!

The guiding premise might be that ‘Nothing is ever private on the web’.

Once students are aware that every article they post will not only be read by their teacher but also by potentially thousands of people around the world, they start taking their writing and expression of their opinions much more seriously than most of them would if they only handed it in as traditional homework. Recent surveys and studies confirm this.

So blogging will probably be a common thread throughout the next school year. Once the basics have been figured out and learned, I then want to make blogging an essential part of our History class as a way to reflect, think critically, take an educated stand, make connections between past and future choices… all the while building a positive digital identity as responsible digital citizens.

Now I need to see if I can get the kids as excited as I am!

I’m still working on a few ways to incorporate social media in a responsible way as an online infinite learning resource. But that will be the subject of another article. Thanks for reading. Feel free to share if you think these ideas might help someone in a similar situation!

Flipping the Music classroom


Those of you who have been following my ‘inner conversations’ are aware that I’ve been pondering about ways to free up some time in my high school Music classes to be able to incorporate a ‘using technology’ component. The more I read and think about it, the more I am convinced that I cannot truly be preparing my students for their future if I don’t address how musicians today (and most probably tomorrow) need to use technology to create, record, edit, share and promote their art. As I’ve written before, it is no longer enough to play your instrument well.

Computers have made recording studios way less essential. With a little time, patience and web-based tutorials, I can create an album of songs that can easily rival in sound quality the best recordings of the 1990‘s. And while today’s connectivity hasn’t made record companies and distributors obsolete, yet, they are in no way essential to a musician’s success. More and more musicians are actually founding their own, self controlled, record companies instead of relying on the ‘good intentions’ of others. The days when we needed them to record, print and actually ship our art to Music retailers so that people could buy the album are over. Forever. The music business is changing, and I, as a Music educator, must adapt if I really care for my students.

It’ about time

But how to find the time? Adding all these competencies to my already overbooked high school Music program requires that I either take others lessons out or do things quite differently. I’ve already cut down the number of performances to a minimum so that we can work on other things from time to time than preparing a concert. I teach the theory through the actual playing instead of doing it as a lecture. I focus on modern, living forms of Music instead of exposing them to every type that has graced human ears for the last 2 000 years, as I should be doing… There isn’t much left that I can in good conscience leave out! Of course, if I taught in a performing arts school, where only the most talented and hard working students get to finish the program, I could simply add it all to the curriculum and tell them to suck it up. But I teach in a wonderfully average high school in a wonderfully average community full of wonderfully average teenagers. If my requirements are too high, instead of having higher performing young musicians in my classroom, I will have either less young musicians in my classroom or no more musicians at all because the program will be closed down due to lack of interest… Which means that I will have successfully prevented kids from learning how to play, create and appreciate music. Not acceptable.

Thanks to numerous links provided by my Twitter acquaintances, I’ve been reading up a lot about this idea of ‘flipping’ the classroom. The natural fit seemed to me to be a Math class: you tell the kids to view the ‘How to…’ lecture online at home and then have them work at applying the concept in class, where you can guide them. But something at the back of my head has been nagging me, hinting that there must be more to it than that. More possibilities to explore…

I started thinking: “How could I apply this concept to my Music classes? What part of my classroom instruction could be done at home instead?”. If I break it down, a typical 51 minutes of class time (yes, 51 minutes…!) starts off with the kids getting their instrument and warming up a bit on their own while I take attendance before I have them run through a scale or two or part of a song that we know well to get them playing as a band.

With my Senior students, we will then work on a tune, learning a new technique or concept on the way, and I will probably take time to work on soloing (improvising in Jazz speak), using part of a solo one of my students just played as an example of what can work well and why.

With my Junior students, we will work through one of the well crafted Band Method books such as Accent on Achievement or Standard of Excellence. I find that they work really well for the first year or so, providing progressive excerpts of pieces where students can apply either new notes, symbols or concepts that we have just learned. And what makes their use almost unavoidable is that they make teaching 10 different instruments at a time actually possible! Teaching a kid to play bass and another one to play the saxophone while others are learning either how to blow into a trumpet, read a drum chart or let alone hold a trombone properly, all at the same time, would be close to impossible without these great resources.

Unfortunately, since most of the band needs to sound as if they know what they are doing before we move on to the next exercise, some students aren’t as challenged as they should be. They figured it out on the first or second try, but they need to replay the piece or exercise with the rest of the band another five or ten times so that most can catch up. And when we do move on to the next one, a few students would have benefited from another five or ten times. The band progresses at a regular pace, but they don’t. These are the kids we ask to come to tutorials at lunch so that they can catch up. They usually end up demotivated and drop out of Music class as soon as they are allowed to.

Possible solutions…

But what if I worked from two Band method books simultaneously? What if I used one in class as I already do, but that I assigned exercises from the other one to be done at home every week? They should progress at a faster pace, freeing up a bit of time to add my technology component! I know… You’re probably thinking what I was thinking: “How is this any different from asking kids to practice at home regularly? Some will do it, some will not, and there is not real way for me to check either way!”. You’re right; the actual work isn’t that different. But today’s technological tools enable me to add an interactive component to it.

In theory, I should be able to taylor specific goals to each student. The year starts off with me requiring that everyone works on the same exercise numbers at home. Once they have completed them, they record the last one and either send it to me or, even better, provide me with a link to the uploaded recording so that I can listen to it, evaluate it and possibly comment on it. I could then track every student’s progress and adapt next week’s requirements accordingly! Students who are struggling could practice the exercises at home as many times as they want before recording them without holding the rest of the band back. They could even record them multiple times and only send me the best one. For those who think that this wouldn’t be fair, I ask: “Isn’t that what we call practicing?” Stronger students could be given personal challenges so that they could progress at their own pace. In theory, it sounds great!

… Thanks to tech!

I have begun to reacquaint myself with spreadsheets lately. I had stopped using them for quite a while. With the exception of adding formulas to simplify the calculating of grades for report cards, I saw little use for them. And, let’s face it, spreadsheets are not even close to being aesthetically pleasing. They are downright ugly and uninspiring! But now, with the (and I use the word intentionally) awesome possibilities that Google Docs and Drive offer, added to scripts available for the Chrome navigator as extensions, the use of spreadsheets does not only seem relevant to me, but almost essential. I will be looking into using the Doctopus script to manage and share these practice exercises with my students. I’m really looking forward to experimenting with these! Also, I am thinking of using SoundCloud as a site to upload the recordings to. I haven’t explored it much yet, but what I’ve seen has definite potential. An the fact that their recordings will be posted online might also encourage some students to take it more seriously. Teaching about creating and maintaining a positive online presence will be relevant here.

As for my Senior students, most of our work is done together in class. But if my system works, I could also give my older students specific challenges tailored to their level. I could also provide ‘Jaimey Aebersold-like’ recordings that they could practice improvising on. The difficult part would be to have them listen to the tracks while recording their solos at the same time. I think it can be done using Apple’s GarageBand, but I’m guessing that Audacity, available for free, could probably do it also if the students listen to the tracks through earphones. I’ll need to look into that.

But I’ve also come up with a few concerns. What if this approach makes my stronger students stronger and my weaker students weaker? I don’t really see how I could be against any of my students becoming better at what they do, but I am concerned about the second group. But what can I realistically do more? I’ll provide materials, feedback, maybe even online tutorials by myself or, even better, by peers via Google Hangouts or a dedicated YouTube channel (another relevant use of technology transferable to other classes and situations, not to mention the workforce!). If a student just doesn’t want to learn, I can’t force feed him or her. I can’t just download the information into their brain. Yet. Learning how to play an instrument takes time, effort and practice. There’s no way to avoid it.

Another concern is the amount of time I might need to invest in preparing/adapting the material to each student as well as the amount of time it might take to listen to all the student recordings as well as comment on them. It is true that all these student produced materials will provide me with more that enough information on each student’s progress to make a proper assessment when comes evaluation and reporting time. But will I be submerged by the sheer number of minutes a week it might take me to listen to all of these recordings? Short answer: possibly. I’ll have to start in September and see. If I feel it’s too much, I can always require recordings only every second week. I’ll also need to find an efficient way to comment on them, either in writing or by recording and sending my comments orally.

This project has, I believe, great potential for making some time for me to add my technology component. But it also serves the purpose of modelling an effective and relevant use of technology at the same time!

This is going to require a lot of preparation and exploring. But I am really looking forward to it!

I’ll keep you posted! As usual, please feel free to comment and/or share ideas!

Sharing through PNL’s



Image Source

Not that long ago, sometime just before the Renaissance, it was actually possible for someone to have accumulated the entire sum of human knowledge. Today, even the brightest scientists of the world can’t be aware of all the current data on their specific fields of study! 

Now, just for a moment, think about education.

Every day of every year, in most countries of the world, educators are questioning the effectiveness of their methods and adapting to a multitude or learners with different learning styles and challenges. Add to that the reality that society itself is undergoing change at a speed never before seen, and you have but a glimpse of the prodigious amount of new educational ideas and practices brought into existence every day!

Professional development through social media must now become second nature. And what makes social media so powerful? Sharing.

But don’t take my word for it! (Pun not intended, but appreciated none the less!) Recently, Kevin Honeycutt (‏@kevinhoneycutt), a very well respected keynote speaker (if you don’t follow him yet on Twitter, you should!), tweeted: “People who rely only on their own, self contained thinking will not be able to compete with connected people.”, which applies to teachers as well as students, and as well: “Empowering teachers with connections to others who share ideas, strategies, resources & encouragement is a supremely benevolent act.” 

The 21st Century Fluency Project, an excellent resource “designed to cultivate 21st Century fluencies”, has recently published a must read article: The 8 Aspects of Teacher Learning. (If you haven’t yet registered as a ‘Committed Sardine’, read the reason they call themselves Committed Sardines and then decide for yourself!)

Corinne Campbell (@corisel), a public school teacher in Australia (literally on the other side of the world from me!), in one of her excellent blog articles wrote: “For me, sharing is at the heart of what my PLN is all about.”.

And the Personal Learning Network (PLN) is what it’s all about! I’ve only been using Twitter for about 2 months now and I have already learned more than in the previous 10 years, without anyone having to enquire as to my personal development needs or interests. Do a quick keyword search, read a few bios to check for credibility, click on ‘Follow’ and voilà! Instant access to the thoughts, experiences and recently discovered resources of like-minded peers. 



So that we may all accomplish our mandate, which is to prepare our students for their future.

How can this be accomplished by waiting for school boards to organize a series of workshops once or twice a year, to which quite a few will find excuses to avoid and most will attend only reluctantly? How can we prepare for the future when most of us are clinging to what worked in the past as if our very lives depended on it? You know how they say that doctors make the worst patients? Well, teachers make the worst learners. You know why? Because we are asked to change a system that most of us excelled in! And we have university degrees to prove it! Understandably, it’s difficult to feel the need to change something that has always worked for you.

But it’s not about us; it’s about them.

It is no longer possible to develop professionally adequately through self reflection alone. And, at this particular moment in history when communication and collaboration amongst people from around the world have become nearly instantaneous, it is no longer acceptable for an educator to tune out and ignore the wealth of knowledge freely shared by peers, each an ‘expert’ in their field.

Take another minute to read this excellent article by Jennifer L. Scheffer. She writes about her first 10 minutes on Twitter upon registering, which resemble my own as well as those of many people I know. She describes how she went from feeling that it was a waste of her time to wondering how she had ever learned without it.

The Personal Learning Network is the future of professional development. Today, we have access to Twitter, Google + and hangouts, to streaming videos of TED Talks (amongst others), Facebook, hundreds if not thousands of excellent educational bloggers and a multitude of other resources and platforms, not to mention the people working around us. We all have peers and/or consultants in our school boards who can guide us through these new waters. 

In 2013, to look the other way is to not only neglect an opportunity to grow, it is a failure to address our mandate, a failure to prepare our kids.

7 answers to teachers intimidated by tech

Photo on 2013-04-12 at 4.28 PM #4“Finally!”, some teachers let out; “OK”, most acknowledged; “This is wrong! No way!”, the most vocal, yet frightened, of the group shouted out…

Sound familiar?

It’s the typical reaction to any change to the culture of a school… We’ve all witnessed it. (Have you ever noticed how, when you speak to a teacher, they always say “My school”‘ as if they owned it? No wonder change can be so difficult even if it is, sometimes, for the better!) We can all identify with at least one of the three groups above. Odds are that, if you are reading these words, you have at least started to question the way we are preparing, or not, our students for their future. But we can’t expect everyone to agree with our point of view, regardless of which one we adopt.

My high school has recently begun a transition to a full ‘Bring Your Own Device’ (BYOD) policy. Starting next September, iPods, cell phones, tablets and laptops will not only be tolerated, but students will be encouraged to bring them to class and connect them to the Internet. Teachers will also be encouraged to consider, when they prep, the access to knowledge that these devices allow as well as take advantage of the newly available collaborative and creative possibilities that they offer for both their students and themselves.

And, as expected: “Finally!”, some teachers let out; “OK”, most acknowledged; “This is wrong! No way!”, the most vocal, yet frightened, of the group shouted out… Yet most, if not all of the apprehensive group are great teachers! They know their stuff and have been role models for younger teachers for years. But the only thing they have ever heard about Twitter is the 140 character limit (How could anyone thoroughly express an opinion, with all its subtleties, in such little space?), they associate Facebook with teenage bullying because it makes the local news headlines, they hate taking attendance online and reading email because their classroom computer hasn’t been working well for 3 years and nobody has come in to fix it, they know that most of the kids that fall asleep in class were on a computer playing video games all night (even if this is parenting issue, not a tech issue) and besides, if students aren’t doing as well as they used to, it has to be because this new generation has changed, because ‘I, the teacher, haven’t changed and students used to do fine in my classes’.

And you know what? They’re right. This generation of students has changed. That’s the point. It may be for the better or it may be for the worst, but either way, it’s here. We have to adapt.

So how do we alleviate some of the fear that these teachers feel when thinking about letting tech into their classroom and having to change how they teach?

It all starts with a conversation, and then another:

When people question a change, they are demonstrating an interest in the business and their role in it. They may not understand the reason for the change and the benefits it will provide, or may have a different perspective based on facts and experiences that are unknown to the leader. Either way, resistance is the beginning of a conversation about what is best (…)” — Phil Buckley, author of Change with confidence: Answers to the 50 biggest questions that keep change leaders up at night  (

Here are a few tips and answers of my own to the 7 most common concerns that have come to my attention lately:

1 – students will continually be distracted by their phones

It is true that cell phones or any other device connected to the Internet can become a source of interest outside of what you had planned. Paula Naugle (‏@plnaugle) recently ‘tweeted’: “A philosophy in my classroom: phones and tablets on TOP of a desk are tool.  Under the desk are a distraction.” And it works! Just like other class rules, be it chewing gum or writing on the desk, make your expectations clear, tell your students why the rule is important to you and what the consequences will be if they transgress it. It isn’t more complicated than that.

This being said, students are human. Well, most of them anyway. Even we, teachers, can be distracted (Ever watch to see who is really paying attention in staff meetings?). But most of the time it’s because we and what we are asking them to do are boring. I’m not saying that we all have to become full time entertainers but, if you’re going to address a group of people, you should at least think of how you’re going to get their attention before you worry about not keeping it. (For further thoughts on this, please refer to my previous article: Hoping to motivate students with tech?

2 – I don’t know how any of these devices work!

I don’t think anyone today with a teaching degree is young enough to have been born a ‘digital native’ (Thanks again, Mr. Prensky!). Teachers do not need to have mastered technology to allow it in their classrooms. Let students experiment! Simply start by providing situations when they can use it! You’re assigning a project? Instead of having them hand in the information you requested as an essay, give them the option to hand it in differently. I’ve had students hand in videos, radio podcasts, make a model and present it to the class and, also, essays. As long as all the information is there, why not? You might be surprised of how motivated your students may become!

3 – I don’t want to have to change everything I do. I’ve been working on my lesson plans for years!

You don’t have to! Start with little things like, when a student asks a question for which you don’t have an answer, ask a student to look it up! Isn’t that what we would do in real life?

4 – What do I do if the tech stops working in the middle of a lesson?

Any tool can break. And although the technological devices we have today are having a much greater impact on society then a simple tool would, they can still stop functioning at the most frustrating times. But this was also the case when our backlight projector bulbs burned out or when our erasable markers went dry.  Whenever possible, you need a plan B. If not, a second lesson plan.

5 – students don’t know how to write anymore

It is true that some of the strengths and weakness of this generation are different than the ones we had. But it would be a mistake to conclude that their reading and writing levels are below what ours were. Most may not be as good at writing essays, but their understanding of the subtleties of ‘texting’ language is far superior to our own! Also, teens actually spend more time reading then we did, but the device supporting the words have gone from mostly books, newspapers and magazines to electronic displays. And, as with every new wave of teenagers since the 1950’s, the language they use is cryptic and constantly changing. Do they always use proper spelling and grammar? Of course not. But neither did we when we were either ‘passing notes’ in class or speaking with a friend on the phone ‘till way too late at night. Take a minute to browse a student written online blog; you may be impressed by what you read!

I’m not sure how it is elsewhere, but teachers in Quebec like to complain by comparing present day test results to the ones of before the Quiet Revolution of the 1960’s. But they forget that, back then, only a select few went to school long enough to be tested! Today, school is mandatory for everyone, regardless of how academically inclined you are.

6 – What about cheating? 

Students were cheating well before recent tech was invented. Cheaters try to cheat! But if you tell the kids to leave their electronics at the front or the back of the classroom in a designated place, the risk is minimal (They put their textbooks away, don’t they?). Will you once in a while catch a kid reading notes off his/her phone when they thought you weren’t looking? Of course. You probably already have, even if the tech is NOT allowed in your classroom yet.

7 – We didn’t use the Internet in class when we grew up; and we did just fine!

Our teachers prepared us well for the industrial age. But weather we like it or not, the way we inform ourselves, create, collaborate and share has changed.

Don’t our students deserve to be prepared for their future instead of ours?

Reinvesting student knowledge, thanks to YouTube

Photo on 2013-04-12 at 4.28 PM #4

Being the only Music teacher in my High School, I have the incredibly wonderful opportunity to teach most of my students for five years in a row. Just imagine the relationships we develop! When they come to me at first, they are barely 12 yo; they ask a million questions, they are enthusiastic about almost project you throw at them and they speak in funny voices to make each other laugh… When they graduate, they want to show off all that they think they know, they are legally allowed to drive a car and their eyes light up when you introduce them to the younger ones as a ‘friend’… Our kids (and I tell them on the very first day of the very first school year that they come into my class: “From today onward, you are mine. You always will be whether you like it or not! So be careful, I’m never very far away. You can count on that!”) move on to college or get a full time job, and when they do, they take five years of musical experience with them, never to be heard again. What a waste! But what if they were given the opportunity to either give back a little of what they have learned, or ‘pay forward’ to the next generation coming into school?

This all started because of Marc Prensky. Again. He recently tweeted: “Thinking with your students about how to use technology powerfully for learning can be more educational for kids than actually using it.” This got me thinking: “Why am I trying to decide everything myself? Why not extend the creative process and let the students choose the means and the content?” So I planted this proverbial seed last week and am watching it grow. I spoke to my graduating Music class (but the process could easily be applied to most subjects) about all the good times we had shared so far, the things we had learned together and the experience they had acquired. I spoke to them about the concepts of sharing and of leaving some form of legacy. I asked them to think about the many ways of collaborating and learning available to us today compared to when they first came into my classroom. Then, once all of these were present in their mind, I asked them to start reflecting on how they could use the tools of today to share a bit of what they had learned these past five years with the generations of tomorrow.

I also asked them not to answer right away; just to ponder. The seed had been planted.

Of course, as I am writing this it’s mid-April, which in Music teacher speak means that I am in ‘preparing the end of year concert’ mode. Translated into normal human language, this means that for the next few weeks we will be rehearsing songs over and over again, determining who gets to improvise when and where (because if I let every student who wishes to solo at the concert do so in each song, we’ll still be listening to them play well after midnight!), ordering, receiving and distributing band shirts, preparing the program and tickets, finding volunteers… There is no chance in hell that we can take time out of our schedule to leave a legacy behind. But that’s OK; that’s why I planted the seed now: so it will have time to grow. In just a few weeks, the concert will be over but I will still have about 6 hours of class time to kill before the school year is over. Perfect!

Now, I know that I wrote that I want to “extend the creative process and let the students choose the means and the content” (such a strange feeling to quote oneself…). But on May 15th, the day after the show, when we all sit down on the floor in a what a geometrically challenged or very creative person might consider a circle, I want to be prepared! Unbeknown to my students, I already have a few ideas of my own! My favorite one so far involves my creating a dedicated YouTube channel to upload videos that they will create. Students in groups of 2 or 3, iPad (or other device) in hand, will choose a topic they would have liked someone to go over with them at home when they were still learning the basics. Could be as simple as ‘how to play a certain scale on the saxophone’, or something more personal like: “When I started playing, I always had this problem. Nothing I tried seemed to work until I finally figured this out!”. I’m really looking forward to hearing about what they want to share! Imagine the database of peer created knowledge, skills and advice we might accumulate in just a few years? Of course, now I need to learn how to create a YouTube channel… But I’m sure I’ll manage. I’m lucky enough to have a great EdTech school board consultant who is always just a ‘tweet’ away when I get overexcited about something and I’m not sure where to start! (shout out to you, @TaniaAvrith!)

I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes, and maybe even post a link to a few of those videos! And if anyone feels like trying any of these ideas out, please do so and let me know how it went. Tweet me @stephanecrete, or just leave a comment at the bottom of this article!

Hoping to motivate students with tech?

You hear it. I hear it. It’s a pitch worthy of the mythical used car salesman: pedagogical and administrative leaders trying to convince the masses that, by letting technology into the classroom, students will be motivated to learn. Like in the ‘good old days’, they will actually pay attention! But technology doesn’t motivate people. People do.

“But I’ve tried it and it worked! I used iPads in my classroom last week and, for the first time since the second week of September, my students were really engaged!” That’s great! Keep on looking for opportunities to let kids create and share! Dare them to surprise and impress you! But the ‘novelty effect’ of the tech you are using will wear off. Allowing it in your class may be new to them, but the tech itself isn’t. It’s part of who they are and what they do in real life, when they are not in our classrooms. It is not nor will it ever be a long term motivational tool.

I guess I should state here that I do not believe that technology is just a tool at all any more. An electronic device connected to the Internet is not a glorified note taking machine or an instant encyclopedia, which is often how us ‘digital immigrants’ (thank you, Mr. Prensky!) tend to see it. These new and constantly evolving technologies are changing the way we create, how we share and collaborate, as well as whom we connect with and why. But at the heart of every educational act is a relationship. A common genuine caring for one another. Without it, no technology will ever motivate a student for a very long time.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fervent supporter of allowing and even promoting the use of technology in the classroom. One of the main reasons I write is to share my own personal trials, errors and hopefully successes! I’d even go as far as stating that every school should find and allocate time to teach kids how to code, if only the basics. I’m not a programmer, but my sons and I have started teaching ourselves (They are 8 and 10yo. We play a free coding game available for the iPad called Cargo-Bot, by Two Lives Left. Definitely worth checking out!). Interactive whiteboards, tablets and everything else I can’t even imagine yet will come and go. But the coding principles running the software they will be using are here to stay. At least for a good while. But no amount of technology will keep a student interested if you’re, well, just not interesting. Perhaps you feel that the curriculum you have been asked to teach may be dull; but you don’t have to be! That doesn’t mean you need to jump around and juggle while doing summersaults! Just establish a relationship. Great the kids at your classroom door when they come in. Tell them that you’re happy to see them. Smile. You may be surprised at the results.

Nothing can replace passion and enthusiasm for what you are teaching, and especially for the people you are teaching it to. Not even great tech. If you want kids to care, care about the kids. And remember: we’re all distracted sometimes!