Commentary, Creative Writing Workshop, Teaching

Five Things I Learned Teaching Without Technology

This week I had the privilege of teaching the first session of my Young Writers Workshop at the Edina Community Center. This is my third year and third location for this program, and it gets better every time I teach it. No homework, no grades, just kids writing and expressing themselves creatively. The BEST!

This year I found myself, as I usually am, stressed about technology. Let me state for the record: I LOVE TECHNOLOGY. Especially in the classroom. But when you’re teaching in a new place, a new curriculum and new students, it’s stressful knowing what technology is available to you and wondering whether or not it will work.

So I made a choice a couple months ago when I started planning. I was going to teach technology-free, the old fashioned way. No PowerPoints, no YouTube clips. Just pencils, paper, and our imaginations.

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Here’s what I learned:

1. It was MUCH easier to plan.

Assuming I wouldn’t have access to a computer (or even a white board) made my life so much easier. It’s like when you go to a restaurant with a small menu versus a restaurant with a huge menu.  The huge menu is great if you have time and patience to wade through all the options. But when you have asmall menu, you pick one thing and make it work the best you can.

2. Classroom management was much easier.

Yes, these were very bright, motivated, and eager students. Of course I didn’t have the same challenges as a classroom teacher has day to day. However, what I discovered this week was that because I wasn’t distracted by technology, I was forced to move around the room more and interact with the students more. Hence, managing the classroom– keeping things moving and organized– was much easier.

3. There was no wasted time.

Teaching without technology forced me to reflect on how much time I waste on my computer. There was no downtime while an overhead heated up, no buzzing around mumbling to myself trying to get my audio working. Once time started, we were ready to go and stayed on task the whole class period.

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4. I had my eyes open to more teaching opportunities.

No technology means searching for hands-on activities, and as far as creative writing goes, those opportunities are everywhere. I was scouring the newspaper for articles to use to inspire stories, I looked through magazines for images and quotes. Some of my best activities came from just having my eyesopen to them in my day-to-day life, instead of digging through Pinterest for a Powerpoint.

5. No one missed technology in the least.

Not a single student asked if they could pull out their phone to do research (well, one did– she wanted to draw a wild dog for her book cover, and wasn’t sure what a wild dog looked like). No one asked if I could talk about the Hero’s Journey with a Powerpoint. No one asked if they could do their story on a blog instead of on paper. In teaching, especially in the arts, it can be so tempting to fall into “needing” technology to illustrate your point. That simply isn’t true.

It wasn’t all perfect. We had some cramped hands and some illegible handwriting. I also had to write a long activity on the whiteboard (which I did end up having at my disposal)…Screen Shot 2016-06-24 at 1.05.08 PM

which would have been better displayed on an overhead. But those minor things paled in comparison to the freedom I felt every day walking into my classroom and knowing that creativity was going to flow– and I didn’t need technology to make it happen.

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