Guidelines about specific
situations and specific ways in which specific technologies
are of significant pedagogical benefit
(With case studies from science education)
Critical and Creative Thinking Program
Graduate College of Education
May 2001, revised April & June 2002
CONTENTS: Preamble | Guidelines | Case studies | Notes
Teachers should not simply assume that computers and other new technologies are good for education. Our professional development should not try to maximize the technological tools you master in the time available.
Instead, in learning about computers and technology in education, educators need to:
a. Make educationally justified and sustainable choices of when and how to integrate technologies, and
In this spirit, our efforts should be addressed at becoming acquainted with using specific computer-based tools, understanding the ideas behind them, evaluating their effectiveness, and developing guidelines about specific situations and specific ways in which specific technologies can be of significant educational benefit. The guidelines presented in this site differ, therefore, from technology standards, which mostly accept that computers and other new technologies are good for education and focus attention on teachers' acquisition of technological proficiency.
b. Plan to learn through ongoing Professional Development how to use the technologies you decide to adopt or adapt.
The guidelines are illustrated with cases from secondary and college-level science education.
Comments, corrections, and additions welcome (email).
(Additional preamble or Skip ahead to guidelines)
It is important to acknowledge the context in which educators are having to develop their capacity to use technology effectively in education. Although the information potentially available to anyone with internet access is rapidly expanding, knowledge can be lost in information (as the poet T. S. Eliot observed).
We need to provide tools for ourselves and for students that genuinely enhance learning. Among other things this means -- as always in education -- addressing the diversity of students' intelligences, backgrounds, and interests. In this multi-faceted endeavor, teachers trying to keep up with best practices will find many unevaluated claims and unrealistic expectations, controversy, uncertainty, and rapid change.
In the area of educational technology, therefore -- even more so than in others areas of education -- teachers need to:
c. Develop Learning Communities in which we help each other to learn about learning and think about change
d. Understand and Respond to the Push for Teachers to Use Educational Technology
e. Examine the Wider Social Changes Surrounding Computer Use Technology
In summary, professional development in the area of technology in education should enable educators to better fulfill the needs of your school, community, or organization; address the information explosion; adapt to social changes; and collaborate with others to these ends. (Further notes on objectives b-e)
With the objective in mind of making educationally justified and sustainable choices of when and how to integrate technologies (objective a), these guidelines emphasize the following general ways -- from most important to least -- that college faculty, teachers and/or students can use computers and other technologies as tools in education.
1. To extend thinking of students
a. Use computers first and foremost to teach or learn things that are difficult to teach or learn with pedagogical approaches that are not based on computers.
E.g., The unanticipated consequences in systems of feedback where there is time delay (see Case study 1a.i)
E.g., Virtual plant and animal breeding (see Case study 1a.ii)
b. Make sure that learning/knowledge-construction is happening, especially when asking students to use the internet.
Note that most existing websites are designed more to transmit information than to ensure learning.
c. Model computer use on best practices to ensure learning without computers.
E.g., if you have ways to get students to read actively, try to incorporate them in assignments that involve accessing information from the WWW.
E.g., Problem-based learning, which uses scenarios or cases to engage students in investigation and learning, building on their prior knowledge and particular interests (see Case study 1c.i).
E.g., if you have ways to maintain the interest of girls in traditionally male-identified areas of science and technology, then use them in maintaining the interest of girls in computers (see Case study 1c.ii).
d. Incorporate activities that identify constraints and keep alternative ways of thinking in mind, remembering that computers, like all tools, constrain at the same time as they enable. (see Case study 1d)
Included in such activities is looking at the history and possible future changes that computers have brought in thinking about thinking (objective e).
e. Without discounting the social and inter-personal dimensions of supporting learning (see guideline 1c), consider whether software and/or its use meet the principles of Universal Design for Learning
2. To facilitate group interaction, e.g., by freeing teacher from the bookkeeping part of class activities
1a-c apply here as well.
These guidelines are evident in software from Tom Snyder Productions, whose slogans are "teaching in the one-computer classroom," and "software for teachers who love to teach (see Case studies 2a-c).
1d also applies
because pre-programmed software tend to inhibit exploration of pathways and questions that deviate from what the designers anticipated.
e. "Take away the toys."
If students remain seated in front of a computer, as is the case in computer labs, they are easily distracted from discussion and other group activities. Ways need to be found to physically separate the computer use from the group interaction.
f. Provide an explicit structure for small group interaction and peer coaching.
Training may be needed. Attention to this contributes to building the desired learning community (see objective c). (See structure of cases in Case study 1c.i.)
3. To enhance communication of knowledge
Guidelines 1a-d also apply.
E.g., Powerpoint eliminates the time it used to take to write material on a chalkboard, but chalkboards are better for making connections during class and for acknowledging students' contributions.
In relation to guideline 1a, see Case study 3.
In relation to guidelines 1a-c, see An exemplary webportal that Margaret Waterman provides to resources for science educators, especially in biology
4. To organize a personal workstation or "virtual office"
a. Identify and address bad work habits before seeking a technical fix.
b. Assess -- either in advance of experimenting or afterwards -- whether a new use of technology will be sustainable in your real-life work situation.
See A minimal set of tools to handle my office-on-the-computer and enhance teaching/learning interactions in a sustainable way
c. Take stock of the tendency towards "Continuous partial attention" (a.k.a. multi-tasking), set limits, and make unrushed time for sustaining/sustained synchronous, face-to-face human interactions.
d. Hold yourself to high collegial standards.
E.g., Do not use email or voicemail to communicate something you are avoiding doing face to face, or that you would not be prepared to do face to face. See Internet etiquette and ethics.
5. To comply with expectations, standards, or expenditures that promote technology use without providing sound pedagogical guidelines.
a. In discussions with colleagues and administrators, emphasize guidelines 1-3 and the distinction between "COMPUTERS in education" and "computers in EDUCATION" and, similarly, between "the teaching of technology" and "the enhancement of teaching/learning through technology."
b. Initiate or participate in a needs assessment in relation to pedagogical benefits.
c. Notice that, although technology standards for teachers may refer to higher-order thinking, etc., illustrations of standards center on using technology and rarely cite evaluations that show benefits for learning the subject matter, let alone higher-order thinking.
6. To occupy students' attention while the teacher focuses on other students
a. We should minimize this! When a teacher has insufficient resources to sustain teaching/learning interaction with students, the first step should be to mobilize additional human resources.
b. Take into account which software is drill and practice, and which extends students' thinking.