Article: “Why Ed Tech is Not Transforming How Teachers Teach”

Published today, on Education Week: “Why Ed Tech is Not Transforming How Teachers Teach“.

The article explains that while technology is in the classroom and schools, many teachers have not embraced the full vision set forth by edtech enthusiasts. What’s the holdup?

  1. Teacher beliefs/philosophies regard effective instruction
  2. Inadequate professional development on new technologies and technology integration in the classroom.
  3. School polices that don’t encourage effective experimenting by teachers in order to fully explain, troubleshoot, and use technology to its full potential for their particular subject
  4. Teachers use technology for teacher-driven instruction rather than student-driven instruction (i.e. use if for themselves or an end-unit project rather than have students discover and learn content for the first time using technology).
  5. Standardized testing reinforces a more teacher-driven instruction style.

So in other words, while the new, hip teachers want to integrate technology, the older, veteran teachers discourage that behavior because “that’s not how we teach here”. This idea is then reinforced through inadequate professional development and a lack of support by administration. Therefore, they revert back to teacher-driven instruction while they dream of student-driven instruction in order keep their job that is dependent on standardized test scores. In 5 years, these new teachers will no longer be okay with the suppression of expression and desire for student-driven instruction over standardized testing any longer; they will end up resigning from teaching. And, they still will have a mountain of student debt left to pay back.

It is this sad story that accelerated my leaving the classroom and tutoring privately. During my classroom observations and student teaching, I felt that edtech was encouraged, but instruction was still teacher-driven because that’s how teaching works. It’s how you prove you’re actually “teaching”. I felt I was doing a ton of work and the students were just sitting there, spacing out and doodling. A few students participated, but most were just conditioned to just sit back and let “school” happen. They put in their 6 hours hours of doing whatever the teacher wanted so their parents would get off their backs about not getting a 4.0 and that’s it. There was very little smiling, laughter, or student-driven learning. In fact, few were actually there because they wanted to.

I hope enough new teachers stick it out until student-driven instruction with technology is the norm. I also hope that veteran teachers either embrace student-driven instruction with technology or move out of the way in favor of change. Edtech is here to stay and it needs to be integrated.

Guest Post: Technology in the Classroom; Where Should the Line be Drawn

Guest Post by: Will Clevett

Having laptops and tablets in classrooms has been a muchNo Laptops debated subject, with many studies done on both sides of the fence, showing both the benefits and drawbacks from students having computers in class. The potential benefits are already being used to great effect in forms such as distance learning. For future uses of technology, we could find adaptive teaching techniques allowing children to effectively have their own digital tutor which can adapt and change the level and techniques being used to help that child learn, based on their responses to previous work, and apply pressure to continue stretching the boundaries of their learning.

Many naysayers say that technology provides too many distractions and makes people less knowledgeable, as they rely on their technology to store data rather than their memory. However, this is an age-old argument which was first recorded in approximately 370 BC by Plato in his conversation with Socrates, quoting an Egyptian king:

“For this discovery of yours will create forgetfulness in the learners’ souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves. The specific which you have discovered is an aid not to memory, but to reminiscence, and you give your disciples not truth, but only the semblance of truth; they will be hearers of many things and will have learned nothing; they will appear to be omniscient and will generally know nothing; they will be tiresome company, having the show of wisdom without the reality” ~ Plato

Naturally this isn’t about computers or the internet; this was about the downsides to writing and the change that the written word presented to the world, though it’s also disconcertingly easy to apply to modern trends in technology, with the rise of the internet and mobile devices allowing people to connect constantly. While the above statement appears to have been wrong, that doesn’t necessarily mean it will remain so for the internet age.

The key distinction is the difference between using technology to support learning efforts and using that reason as an excuse to keep up to date on Facebook, and it may be true that having such easy access to social media platforms and other sources of information may just be too distracting. Google have reported that the average Android user checks their phone around 150 times a day and, despite being a middleweight phone user, I can’t deny that my usage fits into this ballpark.

This has led to many teachers banning technology in their classrooms, most commonly the mobile phone for the distractions they can cause everybody else, but following a study done by Professor Cliff Nass in 2009, it actually looks like people who try to multitask with technology are actually worse at concentrating on any of the tasks than people who don’t try to multitask. This study even led to a lecturer in social media (of all things) at New York University banning laptops and tablets in their classes unless actually required for the work.

The fact is that, for most people, computers are an everyday part of life and, as such, this should be reflected in teaching as it has been. The growth of technology has been especially helpful to many further education institutions, such as universities, allowing many students to remote control equipment from half a world away. This gives students opportunities they otherwise simply wouldn’t have had. For example, astronomers often require facilities a long way from light pollution and they may often need to take measurements from the other hemisphere, which is all now possible with the internet. Such skills are very transferable as well, with most jobs requiring proficiency with computers, at the very least, and many jobs in industrial computing requiring the remote access of equipment.

So at the end of the day, it looks like technology is going to be a massively important tool going forward in teaching at all levels. It is, however, also something which will need to be used responsibly and innovatively to structure learning rather than as a quick solution to problems.

Putting Technology in Schools: Think Before You Invest

If it’s possible to put new(er) technology into a school, should you do it?

Your first response was probably, “of course, if the money works.”

However, you’d be wrong.  Well…more accurately, you’d be right…most of the time.

See, “The Kenyan government is delivering on an election promise and has awarded a supply contract for 1.2 million laptops to be given to first year primary school students,” (Goodwin).  At first, there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong.  Why wouldn’t giving young students in a third world country laptops and access to the plethora of information that is available on the internet be wrong?  One fact: “75 percent of the population lack reliable access to electricity, the laptop roll out, although media sexy, is completely out of touch with reality,” (Goodwin).

Yes, you read that correctly.  “Only 2,037 of the targeted 20,368 schools that are to receive laptops are connected to the electrical grid,” (Goodwin).  Yup, that means that “90 percent of the children receiving these laptops will have no reliable means to power them and might realistically never turn them on,” (Goodwin).

Laptops, tablets, smartboards, and other educational technology devices can be a great investment for schools, providing the infrastructure for the technology is available.  I don’t just mean electricity (although that is pretty imperative); I mean the school infrastructure.  Teachers need to be trained on how to use the device, basic troubleshooting, and how it can be used specifically for their subject.  Students need to be trained on the device as well as basic troubleshooting.  Parents need to know what their responsibilities are and who to contact when they need help.

Too often technology is bought to “fix” a problem or bridge a gap in education.  Remember: technology is a tool, not a solution.

 

 

Goodwin, Phil. “Why Kenya’s School Laptops Program Is Not the Answer.” Web log post. ONE.org. ONE, 17 Mar. 2014. Web. 20 Mar. 2014.

Guest Post: The Adverse Effects of Too Much Reliance on New Technology in Classroom Instructions

Guest Post by: Jeffery Morgan

It started just fine.  There was information and communications technology and it reached its full integration at various levels of formal education.  Add more years and technological consumption goods bloomed, from the home PC, to laptop, cellular phone, to Smartphone.

Bandwidth connection also improved.  Application developers proffered educational apps both for free and with charge.  Education – with technological advantage – meant learning everywhere and anytime students want.

Wait, not exactly anytime: students are still expected to perform and conform to the standards of their educational institutions.  But this didn’t stop the rapid progress of the education-and-technology tandem.

Perceptions switched

A lot of educators, particularly, those who could afford this tech-ed features, thought effective learning is highly associated with higher technological integration.

More technological aspects were welcomed aboard.  These aspects went from the usual equipment, to the purlieu of various educational systems.  Students became so adept at using these devices and systems.

Unfortunately, they didn’t knew how it could use influence them, too.

Reliance to technology soared

Before everyone’s eyes, students and educators alike embraced every ‘new’ technology there is.  In fact, if it’s brand new, everything else was expected to follow through.  The curricula, at large, were labelled as ‘upgraded.

Left in the scene are the skeptics.  Those educators, and students even, who didn’t think technological orientation isn’t full education.  These people were eager to hone in on experiential learning or any other pedagogical concepts – anything save for ‘new’ technology.                                                                           

Subtle to obvious effects

Finally, the day those critics have been waiting came.  Impacts, some of which are adverse, came to show its ugly head.

Students lose their ability to go manual.  Handwritten notes, research, creating diagrams, or developing ideas – all have to have tech stuff on it.  Otherwise, students find it difficult, sometimes, impossible.

A growing thirst for everything instant.  When using search engines for information, students would require “instant” answers.  Their appreciation for the slow process involved in other such chores, like problem-solving or lengthy paperwork, deteriorates.

Academic-related technology usage vs. socializing.  Were your students texting or reading an informative PDF document?  It’s not that easy to know.  Despite such tendencies to veer between academic-related activities and not-so academic activities, guidelines regarding pertinent investigations are seldom upgraded.

This results in a clash between students and educators.   It also adds to the teacher’s frustration, say the case of religion teacher, Sarah Shmitt: “And when I have their attention in the classroom, I don’t want to lose it and I don’t want to compete for it.”

Not too much

These negative impacts should not be taken lightly.  Educators and students must consider the points presented by tech-ed critics.  Ignoring variables here and there will not result to a much better learning and teaching experience.

One of the most important points worth addressing here is the aforementioned perception.  This view that “better education is equals higher technological integration” is not doing justice for everyone.  It’s time to wipe it up and put in place the real score behind new technology in classroom instruction.

Bio: Jeffery Morgan is an account executive of an Essay Writing company and a freelance writer. He is maintaining his blog called Dissertation Compare.

Resources: http://www.pressherald.com/news/student-texting-elicits-_2011-03-20.html?pagenum=full

Technology-Use Classroom Policies: Let the Students Decide

Are you in favor of the zero-tolerance, paper and pencil only policy? Or, do you take the-more-the-merrier approach? Something in between?

Technology use in the classroom is the bane of many a teacher’s existence. Teachers struggle with the excellent benefits that technology can provide and the tempting distractions it allows.

So what are the benefits? Note-taking. Reference a large volume of text without the weight. Disability support. Educational support apps/programs. Email. Cloud storage and collaboration.

And the tempting distractions? Let me count the ways…social media, games, internet memes, non-educational apps/programs, text messaging. Even beneficial things can become a distraction, for example email and cloud storage. Students could be working on homework for one class while ignoring the teacher of the class they are currently in. When students snap back to attention, they ask the same questions that have just been asked because they were not listening. Precious class time is wasted in repetition. Then, the students who were paying attention get bored by the repetition and then become distracted by their technological device of choice.

So what is a teacher to do? Let the students decide.

Seriously.

Create a document in Google docs that all students can edit. Give the students a one week deadline to edit policies and consequences as they see fit. Discuss with your students the conundrum you face with technology–your goals versus its distractions.

This will allow the students to feel their desire to use technology is respected. It will invite students to police each other.

Of course, this may not work. Teachers may need to reserve the right to veto outlandish policies or enforce accountability measures. It all really depends on your students. However, if you have found your blanket policies to be ineffective at curbing distractions, perhaps the best strategy is to go straight to the source for feedback.

The Wired Child

The Wired Child

Explore more infographics like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.

iPads…for Kindergarteners?

Amidst budget cuts of essential services and staff, one school district in Maine is spending $200,000 to buy iPads for their 5-6 year old kindergarteners.  Yup, that’s right, the Auburn School Board in Maine voted unanimously to purchase over 300 iPad 2’s and give them to kindergarteners.

I am all for technology in the classroom.  I’d love to use the iPad or other tablets in the classroom…but my discipline is secondary education , not primary education.  And while I can agree there are great arguments for an elementary school to purchase a set of 30 for the school that teacher’s can use in the classroom, I think giving them to kindergarteners to borrow like a textbook for the year is not the best way to spent $200,000 on technology.

First, let’s look at the age group.  5-6 year old children.  They like to play, draw, and use their imaginations.

Pros:

  • Utilizing technology at a young age give students the ability to imagine and create with resources that are being used in the real world, right now.
  • There are many programs that are free or inexpensive that can assist young students in interacting with knowledge in a fun, engaging manner.

Cons

  • 5-6 year olds are not the most careful.  Dropping/breaking iPads can cause a delay in using the technology because not everyone has one.
  • Repair process can have a long turn around time.  Can get expensive.
  • Distractions – kindergarteners are easily distracted.  I don’t think much learning will be done when Angry Birds is so accessible.
  • Lost/stolen iPads – how often do kids loose their homework or just shove something in their backpack?

 

Look at previous statistics of school districts that issued laptops to students.  Did the benefits outweigh the costs?  Were they abandoned within a year or so?  I believe the district would not just hand out the iPads without contracts of liability to parents and an exhaustive policy and consequences manual.  What if a parent does not want to take on the responsibility of paying for damages?

 

I have three main issues with giving iPad 2’s to kindergarteners.

  1. Kindergarteners do not need brand new, top-of-the-line iPad 2’s in the classroom.  The school district would have a better investment of buying refurbished iPads to give to kindergarteners.  This will reduce the cost of the iPads and any losses while still giving young students the ability to use tablet technology.
  2. Secondary education students would benefit more from the use of iPads in the classroom as they are technology currently being used in the real world and would be entering higher education and/or the workforce earlier than kindergarteners.  A simple case of seniority.  The top-of-the-line equipment should be reserved for those who would receive the largest benefit first.
  3. Using $200,000 for “perks” in a classroom when there isn’t enough money to purchase “necessities” such as staff, adequate desks & chairs, updated textbooks, and healthy food.

 

iPads and tablet technology are invaluable in schools and in the workplace.  Kindergarteners can benefit from the occasionally use of iPads, but they are not needed everyday.  You don’t want to focus on what the technology can do, but what it is actually doing. Plus, kids need to learn the basics, understand the “old” way, the “hard” way so they can fully appreciate what the technology can do.  The iPad should enhance learning, not be the source.  A class of 30 rowdy kindergarteners is tough to control, is it really a good idea to give them an expensive item that can they will find a way to break in seconds?  Or would you rather see $200,000 invested in providing healthier food, adequately paid staff, better field trips, and more buses?  If you had $500 to give to a kindergartener to invest in their learning and well-being, is an iPad really what you would purchase?