Tech for creativity rather than replication

I have always been an advocate for technology in the classroom, and Covid 19 pushed educators into a space that tested the most knowledgeable teacher’s resolve. Treading the waters of the virtual world and ensuring that our students understood the privileges and pitfalls of technology was of utmost importance. We trained and encouraged them, their enthusiasm pushing us forward all the while. Educators discovered new tech tools for a plethora of activities and created a social media frenzy of ideas and musings about tech in the classroom.

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The tools accessible to us gave students the capacity to express themselves in ways that were not traditional and pushed them to the edge, hurling them into the pit of creative depths. They introspected upon latent skills and grasped that their learning styles affected their judgment about which tech tool they needed to use by carefully considering the task and learning intentions. As a team of passionate educators, we were thrilled to see learners grow, mature, and transmute into savvy aficionados eager to demonstrate their metal in the tech arena.

As we attained a state of quasi-comfort with virtual teaching and learning, facilitators realized that they had revolutionized the education sector and that we could not go back to the way we taught earlier. I also ponder whether the students will encounter tech deprivation symptoms when we go back to the old pen and paper method, reaching to be heard above the din of conversations and discussions. As a teacher, my threshold for noise and disruptions has diminished. We have all become experts at following essential agreements, raising hands virtually, and constructing projects solely based on tech to express ourselves.

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While giving a presentation about the tech tools used in our school to a group of awestruck parents, I stopped in my tracks when I saw this slide.

I was ostentatiously describing the tools we used in our online classes when I realized that something was rankling within me. The picture on the left is of a ‘Wall of Thoughts’ where students had written their reflections on a topic, reviewed key points, and given peer feedback. On the right was a mind map made through a tech tool. I noticed that I had nothing to say when it came to the mind map tool as it was just that-a tool. Students had used it to regurgitate information that they could have easily replicated on a piece of paper. I quickly veered towards describing other means while I gave myself the time to ponder why this was bothering me.

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During this virtual age, we have undoubtedly evolved and created a new genre of teaching and learning. New tech tools crop up every day and are lapped up greedily by facilitators who want to introduce something new to their pupils to keep their classes fresh. I must confess that I have done the same thing quite obliviously. I recently paused to reflect on the year gone by and tools that I had reverted to time and again were the ones that had triggered discussions, inquiry journeys, student feedback, and collaboration. The reason was simple, tools that mindlessly took away time from writing, reading, and taking notes were carnival attractions, exciting to behold but never ending in any wins.
Students have thoroughly relished using every tech tool provided to them, but the long-term advantages of some are bleak. Learners have stepped away from writing, taking notes is now a chore, and the boredom of going back to traditional ways of absorbing knowledge has taken over. As facilitators, we need to be sure that the tech tools we give them are spurring on questions and interactions to fuel their thirst for knowledge. The tagline that I have learned to live by is this- if the tool does not foster a questioning environment of give and take, it’s not worth introducing to the children. For example, a typed-out word document of facts is a replication of something they could have just as quickly done in their journal and focused on punctuation and syntax. This is a skill they need to hone, especially when the art of writing is dying a slow death. I consider creating a presentation a bit of a step up as students must use their creative skills to sequence the slides and ensure that it draws the audience’s attention while focusing on the relevant facts of the project. 

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In my opinion, the pinnacle of tech tools permits students to express themselves innovatively through videos, give peer feedback, and enable them to elevate their work in some way. These generate great questions and draw admiration from peers, inspiring them to find their niche particular tech tools.

Using prompts and eliciting peer reviews through Parlay Ideas

At the end of the day, it is hard to whittle down the tools that we enjoy employing in our classroom, but as the pandemic rages on, we need to keep abreast of what is truly working for our learners and what is not. Students should either be creating something new or elevating their existing work. Facilitators can feel tangible energy (even virtually) when a tech tool is working well and need to abide by their instincts and not be led astray by thrilling tools that yield no firm results. Tech for creativity is a goal that we should strive and advocate for, our students will be the better for it.

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