I just finished reading the 2nd edition of Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works, a guide for educators who already are familiar with Classroom Instruction that Works. I must confess, I haven’t read Classroom Instruction that Works (it’s been on my to-read list forever), so while I was familiar with many of the strategies in the book, I could see how this book, while great as a stand-alone read, was written as an accompaniment to the model laid out in Classroom Instruction that Works.
I was struck by two immediate reactions as I picked up the book. The first was that Will Richardson, whom I hold in very high regard, wrote the foreward. The second was the feeling that writing a paperback book about using technology in the classroom is a little counterintuitive. I appreciated Will’s imperative tone about technology in the classroom when he states, “Regardless of our own comfort level with technology as a tool to help us learn or teach, we have to move the conversation from ‘if’ to ‘how’–and we need to do that sooner rather than later.” (p. xv) The book definitely matches that mindset by providing technology tools, resources and best practices that align with each of the Classroom Instruction that Works areas of focus. The authors also admit that “Technology books have a notoriously short shelf life.” (p. 1) They state, “Our intent is not to write a book about technology, but rather a book about using technology as one among several tools for providing good instruction.” (p. 2) The authors continuously drive home the point that it’s not about the technology, but about the teaching and learning with that technology that transform schools.
The authors categorize technologies, defining what the technologies do and then provide examples of each. This is a good starting point for educators who may not be aware of the multifaceted uses of technology in the classroom. In addition, throughout the book, the reader is provided specific steps for how to create the tool or access the technology being examined and explored. I could see this book being used by a grade team or a group of educators in a school trying to bring more technology into their classrooms. ASCD offers a study guide for just this purpose.There are actionable items in the book and as a result, there are opportunities for teachers to discuss the examples and consider how these examples could play out in their own classroom.
As stated above, there are a variety of specific, actionable examples provided in each chapter, which paint a detailed picture of how technology supports teaching and learning and not the other way around. These examples are supported by screenshots and links, which also help bring the examples to life. Each chapter’s focus is also supported by specific research and recommendations from research-based methods, which, for a teacher running into walls or barriers bringing technology into their classroom, provide necessary back-up to support what they are doing. Each chapter is also accompanied by a list of additional resources, which are current and representative of the best available for the task. I was also happy to see Google Docs and Google Apps for Education used as examples for a number of lessons.
Many different kinds of technologies are represented throughout the book. The authors include computer applications, data probes, mobile apps for iOS or Android and even examples of using cell phones in the classroom. It is important that educators know that technology in the classroom should not always be equated with computers.
I was also glad that the authors remind teachers of the importance of following copyright and fair use guidelines and modeling this for their students. The recommendation for schools to use portfolio-based assessments for student technology literacy was also a breath of fresh air.
A couple of things disappointed me as I was reading the book. There was still a huge focus on Microsoft Office Tools, such as using the comments feature and track changes feature in Word, and PowerPoint presentations. In fact, at one point, the example given was so heavy on the ins and outs of Microsoft Word that I almost wanted to skip over it. The section on spreadsheets was also a bit mind-numbing. While the examples provided were excellent, they were pretty complicated for someone just starting out using the tool. There also were no mentions of how to use simple spreadsheets in the lower elementary grades. Many schools are moving away from Office tools and some (like me) use open source software like Libre Office, so many of these examples could not be applied in my classroom. One of the examples for teaching with multimedia was disappointing. The example given was a PowerPoint game, similar to those I made in my grad classes 4 years ago. A lot of the examples also focused on specific, paid softwares such as Inspiration. This is limiting for a teacher whose district can’t afford subscriptions to these softwares. While there was a diversity of subscription-based and free sites provided, I was shocked by the omission of tools like Edmodo for managing classroom learning on lists that included Moodle and Blackboard.
Overall, Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works is a great addition to the much-acclaimed series. While it has some shortcomings, I think it does a great job at addressing how technology can be used across a variety of classroom settings. It also takes the stance that educators must include technology in their teaching and provides a framework for the diversity of technologies out there. While I wish that the book had
an e-book format and a corresponding website for easy updating of tools mentioned in the book, it is a good jumping off point for educators looking to use technology to support teaching and learning in their classrooms. REVISED: There is an e-book available here.