The Importance of WHY

In case you have not heard the trumpets proclaiming the news, GAFE Summit is coming to Bakersfield!

September 26 & 27 at Ridgeview HS

Last July, I attended the 2015 GAFE Summit in Palo Alto. Two of my fellow educators came with me and two others surprised me at the event. As I wrote in GAFE Summit 2015 - Publishing Student Work with Google Slides, "I felt like I threw a party, my friends showed up, and the party was a success!"

The two-day event taught use HOW, but more importantly, WHY we should use technology with our students.

The Bakersfield GAFE Summit will bring Google Certified Teachers, Google Education Trainers, practicing administrators, and other providers to teach us how to use technology.  Furthermore, the EdTech Team keynote speakers will fill our souls with confidence that we know why we should use technology with our students.

For the lucky Kern County teachers who will attend the GAFE Summit, I have a special request. I request that you not become overwhelmed with the how to but rather focus on the why. Why are we using technology with our students? Why does tech enhance student learning? Why, and when, is tech used in place of "old school" projects? The how to part is easy, but it is oh so easy to get caught up in the hype and forget the reason we attended the conference - the why - our students.

This is what Vicki Davis and Josh Stumpenhorst discussed the Every Classroom Matters Podcast episode These Five Things Will Not Make You a Better Teacher, This One Will. Both the podcast moderator and Illinois Teacher of the Year discussed the danger of using tech for the sake of tech. 

Used with purpose, technology brings our students and teachers to an incredible new world of controlling one's own narrative, collaborating with students all over the globe, and attaining dreams thanks to the resources we have at our fingertips. However, teachers who use tech out of shame - everyone else is doing it, so now I have to - cause more harm. We must use tech with a purpose. We must not change for the sake of change.

We must focus on the why. Fortunately, the GAFE Summit EdTech Team does an excellent job reminding us of that why. 

The first why is to write and share your own narrative. Watch this video. Watch how the Chicago students' hearts break as they share harsh stereotype of Chiraq (Chicago + Iraq) bestowed upon them and how they are start healing by controlling their own narrative.

Without technology, the students' narrative would have had a limited audience. The fact is many students live a hated stereotype and need to hear this message. They love their neighborhood that loves them back.

The next why is collaborating and expanding our knowledge with students from around the globe. Stephen from the U.S. and Josh from Taiwan demonstrate in this 2014 White House Student Film Festival video how they created a robot together despite their geography.

Without technology, such as messaging, email, and video chat, these boys could not have designed a robot together. Their ideas would have been limited to people who are just like them. Difference challenges us.

A third why is attaining our dreams thanks to the resources we have at our fingertips. The video below was another 2014 White House Student Film Festival Finalist that explained how technology is empowers our students and broadens their imaginations. I argue that the how described in this video is actually a why we should strategically use technology in our class.

Without technology, this student could have only dreamt about exploring space. With technology, this student can dream and train for his future as an astronaut.

We educators must not change for the sake of change. Neither should we shame teachers into using technology. We must strategically use "old school" options such as painting posters, building physical models, and writing by hand. We must not limited ourselves or our students.

The picture below was taken in Spring 2014. Notice that the students are presenting writing projects, some written by hand and others typed, on a group poster they designed.

My students did not research or create their Mars One Writing Project online. Yes, I gathered the resources from the internet, but the students did the research on printed copies. Can you add tech to this lesson? Yes, but it must be because tech enhances the lesson, not just because we can use it.

Tech does not teach our students - teachers do. And, as professional teachers, we must understand that the why use technology is more important than the how. New educational technology does not replace what has worked for decades; rather, it can and should be strategically used to open a new world of learning opportunities.

Please remember this, Kern County teachers, when you attend the Bakersfield GAFE Summit September 26-27, 2015 at Ridgeview High School.


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