By Jose Romero
A month ago, I was having lunch with an administrator who shared with me the story of how her grandson, who at barely three years old, could quickly access a popular website that offers educational games. She was amazed at how easily he was able to get to her favorites folder and start the game without any guidance from an adult. I am sure you have similar stories of your own.
In contrast, I bashfully confess that it took me years to become a moderately fluent typist. The album that takes five minutes for a younger cousin to upload and publish on Facebook takes me hours, perhaps because I carefully pick which pictures I want to share. Although my exposure to it was limited during my school years, technology did make a positive impact on my own learning experience.
The reality now for adolescent and younger learners is that they are exposed to multiple technology devices at an earlier and faster rate than those of us who remember dialing up to access the Internet. For the longest time, I remained wary of using technology devices in the classroom. However, the more I fondly reflect upon certain computer programs that I used as a young student, the more I realize the value that technology offered me. It allowed me to explore worlds I could not experience through field trips or books, and it helped me develop basic skills.
I think back to my middle school days in the Washington, DC suburbs of Maryland, when I excitedly waited for the days I got to go to Lab and play “Oregon Trail.” In groups of two or three, we navigated rivers, hunted deer, and bargained for and traded supplies. We knew that when someone slammed a computer, he or she had unfortunately succumbed to typhoid fever or malaria.
As a person who had left a rural village in El Salvador at the age of six and never left the confines of my new home outside Washington, DC when I was a child, I now see how important technology was to my closest exposure to the pioneer life I would experience as a young learner. Field trips and books were other alternatives, but I distinctly remember the eager anticipation of playing this simulation game.
In elementary school, my teacher, Dr. Clarke, was an old-school teacher who focused on the basics: reading and math. In addition to multiplication and division problems and repeated chants of “Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sadie,” he supplemented the daily routines by allowing us to play Math Munchers. Dr. Clarke would have students line up against the wall, count off 1-2-3, and divide into teams. Those who were number one would sit in front of the computer and play “Math Munchers” in groups, using the two computers in the classroom. The other two groups would use flash cards to practice their multiplication tables or solve problems together. Once we students were busily working, our teacher would come by and quiz each team working on their multiplication facts and keep an eye on the students working on the computers. Then, after ten minutes, he would rotate the groups.
Dr. Clarke was not using these games to simply fill instructional time or provide entertainment. He was absolutely serious about ensuring that we had some basic math skills once we left him at the end of the year, and he would use any means available to him to do this.
Technology tools have the power to inspire learning, allow students to explore new worlds, and reinforce and apply skills.
Tell us, what you are doing with technology tools or computer-based programs in your classroom?
What do your students enjoy most? What do you enjoy using?
What are some challenges you have in integrating technology in the classroom? What are your concerns?
Jose C. Romero, National Education Consultant
Jose’s responsibilities include organizing and delivering in-service and professional development sessions in districts and at conferences for PCI’s reading and math intervention products, stayingcurrent on emergent and current Education issues through professional readings, trainings, and networking with professional organizations.
Prior to joining PCI Education on October 2010, Jose C. Romero worked with Kaplan’s K12 Learning Services as an Implementation manager for Kaplan’s pre-college and intervention products. In addition to ensuring the fidelity of intervention and pre-college programs, Jose has provided coaching, training, direct instruction, and management for SpellRead, a top rated reading intervention program for struggling readers by the What Works Clearinghouse. He earned a BS in Finance and Marketing from the University of Maryland in College Park and resides in Maryland.