In my corner of the world, I don’t bump up against too many teachers who are resistant to tech integration, particularly as it concerns the work of literature circles. I know kids who circle up around blogs rather than books, and I know teachers who build literature circle roles around the tech skills they want their students to practice. Everyone is getting started in some way, shape, or form it seems. I admire the willingness that many teachers have to dive in, get a little messy, and find their way with students.
So while the rest of the world seems to struggle with the naysayers who fear that every friendly avatar disguises a predator in waiting, the challenges I’m currently facing tend to be different ones. Ironically, they are sometimes complicated by the enthusiasm that teachers have for technology. This ethusiasm is something that I work to generate to be sure, but not if it means abandoning other practices that serve kids well simply because we’re eager to enthrall them. Often, I find myself inviting teachers to think about the word integration. It implies something larger than technology, you know? It implies that there is more to effective practice than getting jazzed about a couple of nifty tools and the resources we all give and take on Twitter (which I love doing, don’t get me wrong). Integration requires using these things with thoughtful intention.
Skilled teachers and professional development providers are curriculum, instruction, and assessment specialists. I envision technology as a common thread that runs through each of these domains, and the shape of it shifts in response to what students need as consumers of our work and creators of their own. If we don’t know how to figure out what those needs are and we don’t know how to help kids choose the technologies that will help them best…if all we long to do is enthrall them all the time….we’re going to fail them in the end.
Tech integration can’t be offered on the heels of the main course or as an enticing side dish. Too often, we serve it up like dessert or we pour it all over the less appetizing parts of our curricula, hoping that kids will swallow it easier as a result. Done well, tech integration brings out the very best in what we do and all we have to offer our students. It’s truly integrated.
As I think about the role that technology plays in the work of literature circle groups, it’s tempting to link to sites that provide lesson plans, project ideas, and other “pre-fab” resources. I don’t feel good about doing that though. They are easy enough to find, and more and more often, I begin to wonder if directing people to specific places cultivates a textbook-users mentality about the web in general. It’s not about the stuff. The work to be done is so much greater than that.
The learning that unfolds within literature circles can and must transcend classroom walls. The web allows this to happen in powerful ways. It’s not about the tools. It’s about the conversation. It’s about the connections that need to be made. It’s about welcoming kids to the world outside their doorways—their world—not the one we grew up in.
Eager to make that connection? Check out these great examples of connected learning. There are so many more. Somebody help me out here–what have I overlooked?
- Students 2.0
- Flat Classroom Project
- The Learning Experience
- Working Together 2 Make a Difference
This post is the last in series focusing on Literature Circles: