As someone who uses technology quite a bit in my teaching, I often get the question of whether it makes a difference in student learning. To be frank, I don’t think my students make better dances because I use technology, nor do I think they understand the concepts I teach any better than when I used a cork or dry-erase board. I’ve also found that there’s a considerable cost of my time when using new technology for the first time: I need to create new materials, alter the curriculum and learn how to operate the new stuff.
That being said, technology definitely has its benefits when used intelligently. Once I’ve created my materials (my SMART Board Notebook pages, for example) they’re always ready to go—and just a mouse click away. Plus, my materials look professional, which I do think affects student learning to some extent: Students are more likely to commit to what you’re teaching when it looks official. Much of the technology I use is a huge time-saver, too (after the initial setup, that is). Increasing my efficiency actually gives me more teaching time, since I’m not wasting time shuffling through materials.
But I do think students should have tactile experiences to cement their learning. That’s why I’m not giving up my handmade set of Language of Dance flashcards (made using the technology available to me at the time—computer, printer and laminator). My students hold those in their hands when they direct their peers in dancemaking.
Barry Blumenfeld teaches at the Friends Seminary in New York City. He is an adjunct professor at New York University and on faculty at the Dance Education Laboratory of the 92nd Street Y.
Photo courtesy of Barry Blumenfeld