Walk into any given classroom in New York, or North Carolina, or Florida, and you’re bound to see a variety of multimedia and technological devices in use in various ways. There are SmartBoards and Promethean Boards, laptops, flip cameras, and the list goes on. It can feel overwhelming to teachers to adjust to these new modes of interacting with text, and interacting with students and their work. The default way to incorporate technology is often just to keep doing the same thing, but in a new medium. But using a SmartBoard as a fancier piece of chart paper doesn’t take advantage of some of its crucial elements, like its capacity to weave still and moving images into a lesson, or the possibility of saving class-created documents from interactive writing and emailing that to students or posting it on a class web page. The real promise of the new technology is that it can bridge the distance between teacher and students, between students and texts, in truly innovative ways. But it takes time and understanding of the new applications and devices to make good on this promise. The Teachers College Reading and Writing Project is helping teachers make this leap.
The TCRWP directors and staff, in conjunction with teachers at many Project schools, are conducting ongoing inquiries into the use of technology as a way to enhance, differentiate, and support classroom teaching in reading and writing. Staff developers work with teachers to plan instruction that uses technology to support teaching practices already in place, such as the use of a film or audio clip to connect with a reading lesson, the creation of a digital classroom conferring grid to streamline record keeping, or the use of flip cameras to record student partner or book club talks so that the talk can be analyzed for assessment towards future instruction. In addition, we work with teachers to decide on new instructional practices that may be necessary to support students becoming more tech and web-literate, such as creating a class blog or Wiki where students post work and comment on their peers’ writing, or teaching students to make podcasts as a way to present an essay or informational piece.