Balancing the Digital Classroom & Traditional Classroom

Balancing the Digital Classroom & Traditional ClassroomAs soon as implementing technology into the classroom became the “big thing,” I jumped right on board. I used technology a lot; maybe too much.

I was busy teaching the Grade 1 Work Place Last Shape Wins and thought it would be fun to build with the pattern blocks online. Soon, the internet went down, so I quickly got out the regular pattern blocks to play the game. My students transitioned really easily and were very engaged. When it was time to clean up, one said with a sad face, “Awww, I wish every day in math was like this.” At first I was shocked. But almost immediately I realized I might have been overusing the technology in my classroom and abandoning the hands-on manipulatives to teach concepts.

Balancing the Digital Classroom & Traditional Classroom

I needed to remember that there’s much research to show that teaching with math manipulatives can improve students’ understanding. As the linked article states, “To gain a deep understanding of mathematical ideas, students need to be able to integrate and connect a variety of concepts in many different ways. … The effective use of manipulatives can help students connect ideas and integrate their knowledge.” 

I knew I needed to get better at balancing the more traditional methods of teaching with the implementation of technology, and I started researching how to do this.

One resource I now use when deciding whether or not to implement technology is SAMR. The basic premise of SAMR is that you ask yourself four different questions:

  1. Is the technology just replacing what I am already doing? (Substitution)
  2. Does the technology make what I am doing easier or better? (Augmentation)
  3. Does the technology allow for significant lesson redesign and benefit? (Modification)
  4. Does the technology allow for new tasks that were previously inconceivable without the technology? (Redefinition)

Balancing the Digital Classroom & Traditional Classroom

Now, if the technology is simply substituting what I’m already doing, I don’t use it. If the lesson calls for pattern blocks, I now use the actual pattern blocks instead of finding a digital substitute. If the lesson calls for the number rack, the students get the number rack out of their cubbies instead of doing it on the app. Making this simple decision immediately gave my classroom more balance and exposed my students to the many tools they could use during math.  

We still use technology in my classroom, but only when it is truly enhancing the lesson. I encourage you to consider your technology use in the classroom. Go through the SAMR model and ask yourself whether the technology is really improving your students’ skills. It’s a hard question to ask, especially after you’ve invested a lot of time implementing technology, but if you’re aiming for an appropriate balance, the question is essential. 

~ Contributed by Grade 1 Bridges Teacher Mandie Lorge