When students are using technology as a tool or a support for communicating with others, they are in an active role rather than the passive role of recipient of information transmitted by a teacher, textbook, or broadcast. The student is actively making choices about how to generate, obtain, manipulate, or display information. Technology use allows many more students to be actively thinking about information, making choices, and executing skills than is typical in teacher-led lessons. Moreover, when technology is used as a tool to support students in performing authentic tasks, the students are in the position of defining their goals, making design decisions, and evaluating their progress.
The teacher's role changes as well. The teacher is no longer the center of attention as the dispenser of information, but rather plays the role of facilitator, setting project goals and providing guidelines and resources, moving from student to student or group to group, providing suggestions and support for student activity. As students work on their technology-supported products, the teacher rotates through the room, looking over shoulders, asking about the reasons for various design choices, and suggesting resources that might be used. (See example of teacher as coach.)
Project-based work (such as the City Building Project and the Student-Run Manufacturing Company) and cooperative learning approaches prompt this change in roles, whether technology is used or not. However, tool uses of technology are highly compatible with this new teacher role, since they stimulate so much active mental work on the part of students. Moreover, when the venue for work is technology, the teacher often finds him or herself joined by many peer coaches--students who are technology savvy and eager to share their knowledge with others.
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