Not More EdTech: Part 2 | Tanya Sheckley | 3 Min Read

April 18, 2024

I’m not a great teacher.  My role is mostly as the leader, I’m a pretty good leader but a mediocre teacher.  That’s alright—my goal is always to hire people better than myself—but what happens when I am in the classroom? My strengths are building the project experience and having discussions in the classroom to generate ideas and solve problems.  It’s not teaching grammar.  Educators now have a variety of tools to not only use to support their own learning, development, and classroom lesson plans and management, but also to help them teach the things that are not their strengths so that they can focus on what matters in the classroom.  Human connections.  

My last article focused on how we need to utilize EdTech for our educators and not for our students.  Our students need human connection and they need to learn from humans.  Humans should be teaching social emotional skills, relationship building, collaboration, problem solving, and creating meaningful learning experiences for our students.  So, I’d like to admit that I see another use for EdTech—in the limited role of teaching assistant, bolstering content on a case-by-case basis, chosen not by the school or district, but by the teacher.

I made the argument that technology shouldn’t be teaching skills that teachers can teach. However, technology can teach the necessary knowledge that maybe a teacher doesn’t have, has forgotten, or isn’t good at teaching.  This will be different for each teacher.  They should be able to craft their own IEP:  individualized EdTech plan.  It can be used to teach some foundational skills beyond learning to read and learning number sense; which are both best taught through movement thinking and integrating sensory opportunities with learning.  But what about as our students get older?  How can we use technology to cover concepts so that we can use class time as time together?  

This isn’t a new idea, it’s the basis behind a flipped classroom or blended learning.  There have been many books and articles written on this idea.  If we are going to move our learning to a collaborative and project based approach we need to find time in the school day to do it.  One of the biggest challenges we see when schools want to move from a more traditional approach of giving knowledge and then testing retention to a more Socratic or project based approach is finding time in the schedule for the new group project time.  These teachers could utilize the technology to teach the things they “need” to teach (but really, when was the last time you had to recognize a preposition or diagram a sentence) and then use classroom time for more integrated, interesting and real-world oriented work.

I have been privileged to be teaching middle school Humanities this year.  We built incredible project experiences for the students creating their own album covers and writing social justice focused lyrical poetry, building world history timelines, and writing persuasive papers on the need for countries to have borders; but we also have to cover grammar and writing with proper English, and MLA citations.  My seventh grader (who goes to a different school than mine) asked me one day what program we use for teaching grammar and I said I taught it, then she showed me her homework.  The program she was assigned was better at teaching than I am; it explained concepts clearly and succinctly and could target each student’s understanding and needs.  It allows the educator to go back and re-cover missed concepts or to assign more practice.

The use of EdTech should be as personal as learning should be.  Each educator should be able to make their own choices on what to use, what to implement, and what will enable their students to do their best.  For me, I plan to start using a program to teach grammar and assign it as homework so that our classroom time can be spent diving into utopian civilizations of the past, present and future. 

You may also be interested in reading more articles written by Tanya Sheckley for Intrepid Ed News.

Tanya Sheckley

Tanya Sheckley is Founder and President of UP Academy, an elementary lab school which values innovation, empathy and strength and incorporates a unique neuro-development program for children with physical disabilities. Tanya’s vision and mission show it’s possible to celebrate differences, change what’s broken in the American education system, and that all children can receive a rigorous, well-rounded education. She is an Edpreneur, Author of Rebel Educator: Create Classrooms of Imagination and Impact and host of the Rebel Educator podcast. She speaks frequently on the future of education and entrepreneurship. She is a rebel educator who works with new and existing schools to question the status quo and develop innovative student experiences through inclusion and project-based learning.

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