NOTES ON THE USE OF EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY
accompanying general guidelines for the use of educational technology and case studies
Consider objectives b to e in turn:
b. Plan to learn through ongoing Professional Development how to use the technologies you decide to adopt or adapt
Administrators have often allocated funds for new software and hardware and promoted new initiatives to promote computers in education without providing teachers the training, support, and opportunities for ongoing professional development they need to use those purchases well and keep up with initiatives (Becker 1994). In order to address this imbalance the first goal of any course should be to engender in teachers a commitment to and capacity for ongoing professional development (PD).
c. Develop Learning Communities in which we help each other to learn about learning and think about change
PD is like a journey in that it takes us into unknown areas or allow us to see familiar areas in a fresh light; involve risk; require support; create more experiences than can be integrated at first sight; and yield personal changes. In this sense, PD is also personal development and it is essential from the outset to work on building learning communities (see Appendix 1 for more on PD learning communities). In a PD Learning Community we can learn a lot from each other and from teaching others what we know (see Appendix 2 on Learning to use new tools). We can also transfer this learning community model into how we help students learn and into how we find technology "mentors" to guide and support our future, self-directed learning.
d. Respond to the Push for Teachers to Use Educational Technology
The push for teachers to use educational technology often means we try to bring computers into teaching without a clear idea of pedagogical advantages and of ways to ensure learning happens and knowledge is gained. We should be able to respond to the push with more discrimination and to influence decision-making if we:
a) develop guidelines about specific situations and specific ways in which specific technologies are of significant pedagogical benefit;
(See Appendix 3 for warm-up, critical thinking exercise.)
b) identify questions that need to be researched (or that we need to locate the up to date research on);
c) evaluate critically the stated reasons given for the push; and
d) understand the less-often-discussed reasons (social, historical, commercial, administrative).
e. Examine the Wider Social Changes Surrounding Computer Use
To be creative and critical about the use of technological tools we should consider possible future changes in computers and related technology in society at large -- many of these will feed into education and into our lives and those of our students. A toolkit for thinking about these visions of the future would include themes to interpret where we have come from (the history of computers in society, Edwards 1996) and alternative possibilities for where we might be going. As Joseph Weizenbaum, author of Computer Power and Human Reason responded, when asked if computers could one day replace teachers, "Yes, computers could to that, but why would you want them to?"
Becker, H. J. (1994). "A truly empowering technology-rich educationHow much will it cost?" Educational IRM Quarterly 3(1): 31-35.
Edwards, P. N. (1996). The Closed World: Computers and the Politics of Discourse in Cold War America. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Premises of Professional Development Learning Community
("We" refers to teachers and their instructors; "You" refers to teachers)
1. We know more than we are able, at first, to acknowledge.
2. There is insight in every response.
3. Our initial conclusions may change, especially about what you, other teachers, your students, and your schools are capable of -- Be open for surprises.
4. Professional Development is like a journey into unknown areas or allowing you to see familiar areas in a fresh light. It involves risk; requires support; creates more experiences than can be integrated at first sight; yields personal changes. Thus the need for PD to take place in a Learning Community.
5. Small group work: When a person is heard, they can better hear others and hear themselves. This causes us to examine decisions made in advance about what the other people are like, what they are and are not capable of. The aim of working in small groups is to keep us listening actively to each other, foster mutual respect, and elicit more of our insight.
6. What we come out with should be larger and more durable than what any one person came in with; the more so, the more voices that are brought out and energies mobilized by the process. In particular, the experience should result in your being engaged in carrying out/carrying on the plans you develop.
7. There is too much for us to deal with in our lives and teaching, so course work has to be designed to be like a natural part of what you, as teachers, are already doing, rather than extra chores.
8. Inspired by the National and State Curriculum Frameworks/Standards, PD should promote sound, considered standards for
Professional development for teachers
Use of educational technology in teaching
Assessment of student progress
Curricular frameworks and content
Engagement with the larger system shaping and supporting use of technology in education.
[ISTE National Educational Technology Standards for teachers]
9. It is expected and understandable that you will choose at some point(s) to downplay sound standards and respond instead to pressures to focus on the test-driven content standards.
10. There is too much in the national and state standards, so you should select a subset of the standards (or components of standards, or other lessons from sessions) that you want to focus on at any time (say, 6-10). (You should be prepared, however, to adjust your focus/subset as time goes on.)
11. There is too little in the national and state education standards, in the sense of not telling you what to do in your lesson planning and classes. A learning community should enable you to ask for help and support during this course in making the translations of standards into classroom practice. You should also be able to develop relationships that will enable you keep getting help and support when the course is over.
12. We can approach any course or PD experience as a work-in-progress. Instead of harboring criticisms to submit after the fact, we can find opportunities to affirm what is working well and suggest directions for further development.
Others (to be added as they emerge and we articulate them)....
Appendix 2. Learning to use new tools
1. Acknowledge the social and affective dimensions of your learning, whatever learning preference you have.
2. Take the opportunity to get introduced to -- not proficient in -- more technologies than you could adopt. Learn about what each one is supposed to do and about what training, time, and support you would need. Then, taking account of guidelines in Section B, you can make sound decisions about whether, when, and how to develop more expertise in the technologies. (See also Appendix 6: Criteria for evaluating software.)
3. When you decide to go ahead and develop practical proficiency with any particular technology or software, before you sit at the computer:
a. Make sure you have a task that motivates you to persist in learning the software.
b. Design your work on paper, including the kinds of steps you need to do.
c. Arrange assistance from someone more advanced in using the software.
d. Arrange convenient access to a computer with the software installed.
Appendix 3. Warm-up critical thinking exercise on the push for technology in education
The "old debate about whether we should have computers in schools [is] the wrong question. The question is, how do we use computers and technology to improve schools and learning?" (Keith Krueger of the Consortium for School Networking, quoted in New York Times, 5 April 2000). Consider the following reasons that have been suggested for why Krueger and others who express similar sentiments want us not to revive the "old debate" and ask "whether we should have computers in schools":
a. They cannot supply a ready answer.
b. Their organizations benefit from the adoption of technology in schools so they do not want people questioning that.
c. Computers were pushed into schools by corporations and policy makers who did not have a ready or well-supported answer.
d. If teachers, parents, and administrators evaluated the arguments for computers in schools and the costs and benefits to date they might slow down the further adoption of technology.
e. The forces that have pushed computers into schools and squelched questions about the pedagogical value are too powerful to resist.
f. It would require more time than the average teacher has to challenge effectively the forces that have pushed computers into schools and squelched questions about the pedagogical value
g. Given that computers are now in schools, we should spend our energies accommodating creatively.
h. Given that computers are ubiquitous in society, our students need to learn with them in schools.
i. They do not see that the debate on the first question draws attention to many issues about educational change that are also relevant to people asking Kruegerıs question.
j. The answer to the first question is obviously yes and we should not need further justification.
k. There are so many examples of pedagogically effective use of computers that there is little to learn from the pedagogically ineffective uses that were the unfortunate consequence of people pushing computers into schools on the belief that the answer to the first question was yes.
l. Other? (Please add your own suggestions.)
Identify which reasons you:
i) dis/agree with;
ii) know of evidence to support to support/challenge (and what kind of evidence); and
iii) think warrant further investigation (and what kind investigation).
Appendix 4. A proposed minimal educational technology toolkit
See a day in the office using my proposed minimal educational technology toolkit in the pursuit of sustainably enhancing teaching/learning interactions
Appendix 5. Internet etiquette and ethics
Appendix 6. Criteria for Software/CD-ROM evaluation
(Adapted from ³Great Teaching with Technology,² Tom Snyder Productions)
1. Easy to install
2. Documentation thorough and easy to understand
3. Good sound quality
4. Enhanced by the use of Color
5. Uses standard keyboard and mouse
6. Uncluttered screen
7. Simple and consistent commands to navigate
8. Screens easy to access, clear, and easily found by new users
9. Grade level appropriate
10. Flexible printing
11. Can be saved to a disk
12. Accurate data
13. Depth to content data
14. Free of gender, race, religious and other biases
15. Unique content, not available in print or other media accessible to schools
16. Graphics and sound meaningful
17. Can be used with more than one discipline
18. Has supporting materials or teacher's aids
19. Supports or enhances curriculum
20. Reasonable price
21. Can be used on a network
22. Stimulates student imagination and curiosity
23. Will make children think
24. Includes interactive component
25. Can be integrated into specific units in the curriculum.