Thursday, I had the pleasure of hearing David Thuene (pronounced Toony, which is kind of awesome) discuss how he uses tech in his classroom, a pleasure which is usually reserved for those attending his panels at teaching conferences. Through the power of the University of Michigan and the awesome abilities of my tech professors, I had him hand delivered to my tech class. Mr. Thuene is not exactly you’re stereotypical techno geek. He’s much more on the touchy-feely, favorite drama teacher side. And this may be exactly what the technology field needs. He doesn’t use tech a as gizmo and he doesn’t emphasize how great technology can be for research or cool projects (although it certainly can be). Rather, what I saw him doing was using technology to connect people and expand students’ audiences.
For example, Mr. Thuene teaches English and came to the very reasonable conclusion that students shouldn’t just be writing for their English teacher. The purpose of writing is usually to reach an audience and students can be pretty limited in their learning potential if they are only writing for a teacher. Mr. Thuene had a variety of solutions for this, ranging from non-tech solutions such as inviting parents in to listen to student read essay out loud, to connecting with other students via webcam. He also had a great idea to have students advocate for a particular charity, then award money to the charity with the most votes, as an alternative to the usual persuasive essays we all had to write in high school.
The talk was full of great ideas, not all of which were directly related to technology, but it made me think about the role of technology in a people-oriented framework. (People-oriented frameworks are not my forte). I’ve usually thought of technology as a tool for research or organization. I love the internet because it gives me literally millions of articles about whatever I need to know about. I remember listening to professors with horror as they told me about the bad old days when you had to look up paper copies of journals. However, I haven’t spent much time thinking about how amazing it was to sit in Japanese class and talk to students in Hiroshima. How fundamentally powerful connecting with people in a different country or a different school district could be. Tech gives us the ability to connect in ways that were simply unfeasible a few decades ago. Since we are supposed to be preparing students for life in a global age, helping them connect with and understand people outside of their communities is becoming more and more important.