William Penn Charter School English teacher Mark Franek discovered that using web tools such as blogs, podcasts, YouTube, and other applications has improved the quality of his students' writing. The reason for this improvement? Students quickly realized the teacher is not the only one reviewing their work. As he puts it in his editorial in the Christian Science Monitor:
"Teachers who are using blogs, social-networking sites, and video-sharing sites in school settings are giving young people the opportunity to tune their thinking and writing to a larger audience. When students know that anyone in the school with an Internet connection – or around the world, for that matter – can read what they have written or created, it is remarkable how quickly their thinking improves, not to mention the final product."
Mr. Franek's next observation might not get him invited to Friday after school happy hours with his fellow teachers in many schools, "The first dinosaurs into the tar pits of tomorrow will be teachers who refuse to adapt to new technology." This is fairly strong language. I know teachers who absolutely refuse to adapt because they believe their overhead projectors and slides with a video thrown in occasionally are all the technology they need to do their jobs. They are not lazy teachers either, their students score high on Advanced Placement exams. What they don't realize are students are comfortable with blogs, social-networking sites, and video-sharing sites and know how to make them work. These are the tools students will be using when they join the working world.
However, since these teachers perform, administrators are willing to over look these technological shortcomings and this is understandable. Yet, I sometimes wonder how the students of these high performing teachers students would feel if these teachers decided to update technology skills. What would happen to scores of the free response sections AP exams if students practiced using blogs going to millions of readers (some of whom might be experienced exam readers) instead of papers going to one teacher.