Why Jennie Magiera Thinks Technology in Class Should Be More Than Just “a Silly Side Dish”

July 24, 2013
Kelsey Herron
Common Sense Media
San Francisco, CA
CATEGORIES Digital Literacy, In the Classroom, Technology Integration

Today innovative educators are using digital tools to not only provide previously inconceivable opportunities for their students, but also to support their colleagues and enrich educator communities. Jennie Magiera is one of those teachers.

As digital learning coordinator for the Academy for Urban School Leadership, it’s her job to construct engaging learning experiences in 25 of Chicago’s public schools. She’s also a Google Certified Teacher and an Apple Distinguished Educator, and last year was named Chicago Public Schools’ Tech Innovator of the Year. She was one of three educators invited to speak with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan at the Reimagining Learning: Innovation Summit last May.

When she first started, Magiera said she had trouble understanding how technology tools fit into her classroom. “I saw them as side dish to the main course of my understanding of how a good classroom should look and function,” she said in this Q&A at the DML Research Hub. Magiera sought out research from Ruben R. Puentedura and looked to his SAMR Model (Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, and Redefinition) for help. “I realized I was just substituting what I had been doing before with technology, which wasn’t transformative at all.”

In Puentedura’s model technology is not an auxiliary resource—or a “silly side dish” as Magiera put it—but a unique opportunity to facilitate classroom experiences that were once considered impossible.

Here’s a helpful, in-depth breakdown of the model, which has examples of each phase. In the classroom, the redefinition phase could, for instance, involve students collaborating to film a documentary video that answers questions relating to essential concepts covered in class.

Magiera has had her students do similar exercises, and has blogged about her success using the model to increase differentiation and improve techniques for assessment. In one instance, she had her student and technology leadership team member, Kaleb, review a new app for their classroom. This may seem like a simple task, but Magiera made what might have been a mundane experience become truly transformative:

He hated the app, and he used a less-than-appropriate word to describe it. However, instead of getting on him about that, we talked about his use of vocabulary to express his feelings, then discussed those feelings and why he was so frustrated. He wrote a blog post about how much he disliked the app, and I excerpted it on my own personal blog. Immediately the app developer, who must have had a Google alert out for himself, wrote me asking if he could meet with my students to get feedback on his app so he could improve it. So Kaleb video-conferenced with the developer and used words that I didn’t think he knew -- such as “infrastructure” and “interface.” At the end of the conversation, we didn’t think much of it, and moved on. Three months later, the developer wrote us back to let us know he had rereleased the app with all of Kaleb’s bug fixes. This made Kaleb feel like an app developer. Kaleb felt powerful, and he felt like someone cared about what he said. That was new for him and a very exciting story for him to tell.

Magiera is articulate about the power technology holds for learning: “I could go on and on about how I have learned more and more about my students as human beings, as mathematicians, and as learners through the use of technology,” she said. “Even though I had spent a whole year with them [without iPads], I learned so much more about them during the year we had the iPads because they had so many different avenues of modalities to express themselves.”

Check out the rest of the interview for her suggestions on finding free online tools that can help educators, as well as other tips from this innovator who should be on your radar.