In my school we toss the word innovation around quite a bit as a way to help change and evolution happen. Some people think that simply using technology is innovative and forward thinking. If you would have asked me if I was innovative three years ago, I would have said, "yes" with no hesitation. I was using laptops almost daily in my Language Arts and Social Science classes. My students could create brochures in Publisher and do some pretty amazing PowerPoint presentations. To even think of those things as forward thinking or innovative today would be laughable. PowerPoint itself has almost became a dirty word in my building. I was using technology because I could and basically to say I was using it. Looking back, I could not make a compelling argument that anything I was doing was innovative. I was on the bandwagon of technology in the classroom and felt comfortable that was I was "in" as long as I was using it. Nevermind that the basic conceptual things my students were doing has not changed. Reading journals were now done on a computer... but they were still reading journals.
At a recent team leader meeting our principal had us read a great article by Frederick Brown titled "Just How Forward Thinking Are You?" http://www.learningforward.org/news/getDocument.cfm?articleID=2132. One of the details I really gravitated to was that if you pulled a teacher out of 1909 they would be able to function and teach without a problem. They might not be able to use a data projetor with a Smart Board, but could they not grab the chalk and still teach? This got me to thinking about the work I was doing with technology. I wanted to make sure I was using technology to help push learning and not just for the sake of using it. I initially signed up for twitter to say I was on... now I can't imagine my life without it given all the learning and collaboration that takes place. Instead of those reading journals, I am now have students doing podcasts as a character from their books, creating book trailers, and bringing their characters alive in Crazy Talk. My goal is now to use the technology to deeper my student's understanding of a character, a concept, or event in history. I view my technology use in class not as a fad but now as a tool to differentiate my students work and help them push the limits of their learning. My goal is to ask myself the question, "am I using this technology because it is cool or because it will help my students learn?"