The notion shared in the title may not be obvious. Because the personal touch matters, it’s worth understanding and, for the benefit of students, acting upon.
Of course, technology isn’t a person. It won’t ever replace the power of a teacher who knows and cares for his or her students. It won’t bring the creativity and professional judgment the teacher applies daily in his or her class. So how could technology possibly increase the personal touch?
First, let’s take a hard look at the familiar. The traditional “sage-on-the-stage” approach to teaching unfolds at the pace decided by the teacher. It covers content decided by the teacher, and is delivered in a manner decided by the teacher. While appropriate at times, this approach is imperfect and, for many students, impersonal. These students require a different pace, be it faster or slower. They respond better to a different level of content, whether more simplified or complex, or would understand concepts better with different choices of content.
Technology personalizes school because it brings flexibility in pace, level and content like a teacher alone cannot. Here are some examples:
- Instead of completing the same math fact sheet, students can use websites like www.thatquiz.org to practise the math facts they need to practise, at the right pace and level of challenge for them. Similar tools exist for all basic skill development.
- Instead of learning through the lens of textbooks, students can use technology to roam the world for relevant content. Under teacher supervision, students can create their own multi-media “texts”, in the form of wikis, that they and their classmates can study from with pride.
- Instead of sitting through a lesson that many students may not need (because they already know it) or not follow (because they’re lost), teachers are leveraging technology to personalise instruction. Technology can deliver introductory instruction at a pace controlled by each student (you can pause, rewind, rewatch at will). Students who need different levels of instruction can get that too. Watching instructional videos the night before class makes the in-class lesson more effective and efficient, and leaves more class time for real teacher-student interaction.
The personal touch matters and having a great teacher matters. Technology can help make the most of both.
Assistant Head, Academics
You can follow Andrea on Twitter @afanjoy.
This article was first published in SNAP Etobicoke, November 2012.