Sunday, 10 February 2013

Clarence Fisher: Purposeful Use of Technology

     This week we had the opportunity to Skype with Clarence Fisher from Snowlake, Manitoba. I was especially looking forward to this presentation because I have followed Clarence's work on his blog for a little under a year and it was exciting to know that I would be able to put a "face to the blog"! Now this wasn't the longest presentation our class has had (we only had about 30 minutes to connect with Clarence as he was tuning in during one of his prep periods while his class was in Phys-Ed) but it got me thinking about something I have always had an opinion on: purposeful use of technology in the classroom.

purposeful use of technology, use and abuse of technology in the classroom
Image Credit: Components of a 21st Century Classroom by Open Colleges
     I follow several hundred education blogs and have seen many, MANY, posts about classrooms who have purchased interactive white boards, document cameras, tablets, laptops, etc and then proceeded to use them as a novelty. The interactive white board is used to show PowerPoint presentations, the document camera is used to show worksheets, the tablets are used to complete worksheets..... and the technology really isn't being utilized! Clarence mentioned how he does not want his students to simply use technology to consume information, he wants his students to create something. For example, his classroom has a Flicker account and a YouTube account and their classroom features a flatscreen TV that shows a continuous slideshow of student created work. This seemed to be fairly similar to the messages that Dean Shareski spoke about in regards to using the "best part" of the internet.

     Ed tech isn't going away and I'm finding more and more classrooms now have resources such as interactive whiteboards, laptops, tablets, etc readily available to them at any time. Teacher's, however, can't get away with using these resources as a novelty to engage students anymore. Most students have access to these types of technology at home or in their pocket; it isn't enough to simply incorporate them for the engagement factor! Here are some questions we can ask ourselves when using different tech applications in the classroom:

- How is the learning experience different by using this technology?
- What NEW opportunity is this technology providing?
- What is the specific purpose of implementing this technology instead of
   using other resources?
- Is this technology making this learning experience better for my student(s)?

     I strongly encourage you to look back at lessons you have done with your students and critique your use of technology. Was it purposeful? I will admit that I am very guilty of using the SMART Board simply to display PowerPoints but I am also proud of how my students have utilized YouTube to create a video and share it with the world. Clarence mentioned some really awesome projects he was undertaking with his students which included digital design, 3D printing, computer coding and and robotics. Now these are definitely activities that are purposefully designed to utilize technology in an appropriate manner so that students are provided with a learning experience that they simply could not get through pen and paper alone!

     I want to thank Clarence for using his prep time to Skype in with our class and remind us how to use technology appropriately. There are so many exciting things we can now do in our classrooms and it can be easy to get distracted by the novelty of the resource but always plan with purpose and curricular outcomes in mind.

     Here is a link to a post Clarence wrote as a reaction to an article about a district in the United States that is purchasing 25,000 iPads for students. I think Clarence's reaction does a great job of questioning the purpose behind this purchase and pointing out some very obvious holes in their plan.

     Here is a link to a post Clarence created which shares photos of his classroom. You can see the different ed tech resources he has available, including the flat screen TV displaying student work. I LOVE the different types of learning spaces in his room, I think it is organized wonderfully and allows each student to have a space that meets their needs. 

     If you would like to read more about this topic I've found a link to a really good post about The Use & Abuse of Technology in the Classroom by Kathy Cassidy. I think she does a really good job of summarizing some of the mistakes teachers make when attempting to utilize these new resources in their classrooms. One quote that I love from her post states, "Technology should not be used to do what can be done without it"!


  1. I would love to be a student in Clarence's class. Imagine how engaged his students are. I know I used technology just to use it, in my first placement. The more I am in the classroom, the more I want, and need, to use technology purposefully. Thanks for the links.

  2. Kirsten, great post and I also love your blog! It looks like a lot of educators (old and new) use it to connect and use it as a resource! You make some great points on making sure when we use technology that it has to be purposeful. With not a lot of experience with using technology in the classroom, I feel like I'm more prepared at approaching it now.

    1. Hi Jocelyn, thanks for visiting my blog and your kind words :) Sometimes it can be easy to get excited about certain tech tools and forget about why we are using them. I'm glad to see you are feeling more prepared now :)


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