Instructional Technology: Apple Sauce & Food Coloring
When I think of all the possible scenarios schools and districts face when trying to pick just the right instructional technology fit, I’m reminded of a wonderful finger-painting lesson one of my student teachers did with 1st graders. Instead of finger-paints, though, she used applesauce and food coloring. Which turns out to be, as everyone knows, favorites of first graders, and for them just a step beneath playing in mud. Every desk had a large oak tag with plenty or applesauce and food coloring. Students loved it. They creatively painted, licked applesauce from fingers, and covered their smocks with what turned out to be, for the most part, detergent resistant stains. It was glorious, and afterwards, when most seemed dry, we hung them from the walls and bulletin board for what turned out to be another scientific surprise. Finger-painting with applesauce and food coloring grows mold rapidly. We took pictures to preserve the art, but needed to toss out the lot pretty fast. To this day, it is a favorite memory for those students, who are now adults with kids of their own. OK, now get to the the instructional technology part, right?
What does that have to do with choosing technology?
So, what does applesauce and food coloring have to do with choosing instructional technology? It’s simply this, when choosing technology it’s easy to be thrilled with the present surface wonder, and forget the mold part. Well, with technology it’s not quite mold, but more like dust. Choosing the right technology is a bit more complicated than applesauce and food coloring, but if the wrong choices are made, the memory won’t be quite as pleasing as the pictures of the finger-painting before the mold, and not as easy to clean up. No amount of detergent can change that.
There are reasons we finger-paint applesauce and food coloring technology in schools, and they’re all wrong. The district next door is doing it, parents in-district want us to do it, our best-techy teacher wants us to do it, our new administrator did it in his/her last district, all the education publications say we should do it, and on, and on, and on. There is no way to get around this, schools and districts need to know what they want to do, before deciding on any instructional technology. And just because there is a pre-approved list of district technology choices, it doesn’t mean the right choices, for what you need to do, are on the list either. Today, due diligence in instructional technology choices means seriously looking at everything, trying everything, and talking to everyone you can about what you, as a school or district needs to do. Otherwise, you’ll discover what many districts are finding out, now, first hand—that great technology choice wasn’t so great at all, because teachers and kids aren’t using it, and it doesn’t do what you need to do with it.
Anyone in the education marketplace, today, is prepared to outfit you with what your instructional technology plan needs, but it all starts with first knowing what you’d like to do. Then you can get what you need to get in order to do it. Avoid applesauce and food coloring technology plans, because the freshness of fads fade like molding applesauce and food coloring if not right for your instructional technology needs.
Ken Royal is an educator with 34 years of classroom/school and instructional technology experience, as well as a blogger on all things education technology. Teaching accomplishments include: 4-time district teacher of the year, Connecticut Middle School Teacher of the Year, as well as Bill and Melinda Gates award for Technology School of Excellence. He is a Promethean storyteller. Follow @KenRoyal on Twitter.