Go back in time with me if you will… to a time when a new invention, the microwave started to hit the mainstream market. I remember the day that I was first introduced to this new technology. I was sitting in my grandma’s kitchen with my grandparents and great aunts and uncles. My grandma had just got her first microwave (a gigantic box the size of a small car) and everyone was gathered around it staring. Or at least all of the adults were staring at it, some in awe, saying this would change the way we cook forever, some in horror, saying microwaves would kill us all, all those “waves” in the air. I just remember wondering what all the fuss was about.
My grandma decided to demonstrate how this “fancy new invention” worked to the enraptured audience. Before turning it on she placed a cup of water in the microwave, saying that this would prevent it from exploding and killing us all. On that day the microwave entered my life, a technology that was made scary by the adults who introduced it to me.
A few weeks later my mom and dad proudly introduced us to our own personal microwave (again a box the size of a small car). This time in addition to the microwave which must always contain a cup of water (just in case it turned on by itself) we also had a cookbook. This cookbook contained every recipe you would ever need converted into microwave friendly language. It was a veritable silver bullet for microwave cooking. My mom promised that between the cookbook and our new microwave, the stove would now be obsolete in our house. Never again would she have to stand in front of a hot stove or heat up the whole house with the oven. From roasts to cookies the microwave could do it all and the cookbook would be our guide with it’s easy to follow steps. Everything we would eat would come from this wonderful new technology.
Oh what excitement, what joy we experienced as night after night we were presented with meals ranging from raw looking “roast chicken” to bread pudding (I wouldn’t recommend). Some recipes were pretty good but for the most part I began coming very cautiously to the dinner table. After a while mom sick of microwave cooking, put the cookbook back into the cupboard, and started using the stove. Oh it was so good to see real roast chicken again and all of our other favorite dishes. Now does this mean she never used the microwave again… no just the opposite she began to use it all the time, but not for everything. She had somehow gotten to a point where she knew when the technology would work beautifully and when it was better to use something else to cook our food. She learned that it really depended on what you were cooking. When she knew what she wanted she could choose the technology/appliance that would get her the desired product. Not necessarily the quickest way but the way that would create the best quality product.
Now as an adult I wouldn’t dream of not having a microwave in my kitchen. It works great for defrosting meat, steaming vegetables, heating up milk for my favorite Chai Latte. All these things and more I do in the microwave without even thinking about it. The technology is seamlessly integrated into my life and the lives of my kids, who have no memory of a time before microwaves.
For many teachers the new technology in our classrooms is a lot like the new technology of the microwave. Some teachers are saying it will change the classroom forever and some want nothing to do with it. Many teachers are looking for the “cookbook” of easy step by step instructions so that they can plunge in and try every recipe in the book with their students. I am sure that if they are able to find a “cookbook” to follow some recipes will work and some will not. One thing is for sure, it scares the adults way more than the students.
In the end the hope will be that we can all learn when to use technology and when to not…and when we do use technology what technology to use. We need to be able to think about what our end goals are for our students, choose the path that will help them reach those goals, and create the best possible opportunities within our classrooms and schools. This is a journey that will not always be smooth, and we might have some truly awful meals at the technology table, but it is important that we keep trying, keep searching for the balance. As educators we need to take this technology journey for ourselves and for our students because like the microwave oven, classroom technology is here to stay!!