When asked to explore our own personal ideas about educational technology, initially, my mind came up blank. Not because I do not have any thoughts or ideas, but the uses, history, and advancements of educational technology are so vast. So where do I begin? I started by making a brainstorming web to organize my thoughts:
Here is what I’ve pulled together from these ideas, concepts, and connections about educational technology…
It’s not the tools, but how you use them
Michael Molenda highlights this concept when referring to the use of films in the 1920’s. Films were used in seventh grade classrooms as a way to offer history instruction. A study was conducted on the use of films in classrooms and a significant finding of the study indicated that the instructional value of any tool (radio, television, online learning platforms, etc.) is only worth how effectively it is used. Upon reflecting on my experience with online instruction this past spring, I see the importance of, not only understanding how to use an educational tool, but how to integrate the tool into my instructional practices. I was already using SeeSaw prior to schools shutting down, but decided to begin using Google Classroom as a way to post assignments for my students. Using this platform was truly “building the plane while flying it.” I had some knowledge of how it worked, but was constantly fielding questions I wasn’t sure how to answer from families and students. That being said, Google Classroom was helpful in some ways, but I was not using the platform effectively or to its full capacity. However, I learned a lot about using Google Classroom through trial and error (thanks to my very patient families and students) and I am using it again this year mainly to redeem myself…
Last class in our break out groups, we discussed how there are so many great tools out there, but very little teacher training on how to use them. Catherine mentioned that the Epsom projectors have far more capabilities than simply projecting. That completely blew my mind. I have one of these in my classroom and all I have been using it for is projecting my laptop screen. I had NO idea it could be more interactive! Although I had a bit of a *face palm* moment, I’m sure that I’m not the only teacher that didn’t know that. Jocelyn summed up my feelings about this perfectly. She noted that often school divisions provide and/or encourage the use of different tools and platforms, but teachers rarely use them or do not use them to their full capabilities, due to the lack of training provided. I think that with proper training on how to use different tools and platforms, teachers are more likely to gain the confidence to try implementing new ways to support their instruction, in turn, making for an enriching experience for students.
Looking back on my own elementary school experience with computers in 2001, I recall that we used to have computer lab time built into our schedule. Who remembers the retro version of All The Right Type and Kid Pix? Other than going to the computer lab to spend some time with these programs, there was no use of technology anywhere else in the classroom. Today, the use of technology occurs more organically in the classroom (or more recently, beyond the classroom with the shift to e-learning). However, I think an integrative approach to using technology must be purposeful and meaningful to make the learning process relevant for students. Youki Terada highlights the use of the SAMR Model by Ruben Puentedura: Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, and Redefinition.
Terada highlights the importance of being selective when choosing different tools and platforms to incorporate into your instruction when following the SAMR Model by asking:
“How can my lesson be improved by using technology? How can I engage and empower students through technology? How can online learning more closely resemble authentic, real-world learning?”Youki Terada
Using the SAMR Model can be effective, however, I think it takes practice and time to get to that “pumpkin spice” stage. I think starting small with one or two tools or platforms that meet the needs of your class best would be the most effective way to follow this model. We are all at a different stage in our learning journey!
Change is often met with criticism
Making the shift to online learning was definitely met with criticism from me at the beginning. The change was intimidating, but so many possibilities were on the horizon. Eventually, I hit my stride and before I knew it, June had rolled around! I definitely prefer being in the physical classroom with my students, but making the shift to online learning was such a great learning experience. I took risks that I otherwise never would have taken. As a result, I’m trying to incorporate more technology in the classroom this year and have my students interact more frequently with different tools (mainly Google Classroom and SeeSaw for now). Tony Bates highlights the value of the spoken-word for the ancient Greeks, as this was how learning occurred and how knowledge was passed on. When the concept of simply writing was introduced, Socrates felt that it would, “… implant forgetfulness.” Molenda notes that eventually, the idea evolved and blackboards were introduced, which completely change how learning occurred. Today, writing does not seem like such a controversial idea, however, it was highly contested at the time. Like I noted above, eventually, new ideas start to become more comfortable if we keep exploring the possibilities around them.
Technology is a reflection of social privilege
Neil Postman draws attention to some aspects of technological advancement that I initially did not consider. The 5 main concepts he introduces are: there is always a price to pay, there are winners and losers, prejudice is involved (I’m focused mainly on the social piece), the change is ecological, and (eventually) the change becomes natural order.
Social prejudice resonated with me the most of out the five. My mind immediately went to the digital divide. I think of my students who did not have access to the online instruction I was providing last spring due to many factors: there’s one device for four children in the household, poor internet connection, families cannot afford technology, etc. However, after reading The 100 Worst Ed-Tech Debacles of the Decade by Audrey Watters, I realized that there is an inequity among teachers as well. She describes the “debacle” of the “teacher influencer” on social media. She explains how influencers’ classrooms on social media are not realistic and rarely represent what teaching is like in K-12 classrooms, particularly in America. When I look at my own social media and the teacher influencers I follow, I start comparing my own classroom to the classrooms of these influencers that look like miniature homes with the latest of “gadgets,” neatly organized in colour coded carts. I often remind myself that these teachers are sponsored by major education brands and that these classrooms are few and far between. Social media is a great tool in some ways, but can offer a skewed version of reality.
Perhaps the most tragic and impactful debacle Watters notes is the death of Aaron Swartz by suicide. I recall learning about his story from EC&I 832 and it stuck with me. Prior to learning about his fight for equal access rights to information, the amount of information locked away that only the most privileged eyes get to see never occurred to me. The more I think about it, I keep wondering why only people like myself get to experience a wealth of knowledge through the plethora of databases that post-secondary institutions have to offer?
“A piece of knowledge, unlike a piece of physical property, can be shared by large groups of people without making anybody poorer.”Aaron Swartz
I suppose to make a long a story short, the latest device or using a variety of platforms does not make for an improved educational experience, but offers another engaging way to learn. Tony Bates highlights that technology simply supports the oral component of learning. As teachers, we can’t expect technology to make learning meaningful to students. All the devices in the world don’t mean anything without thoughtful and careful planning around their use. Coming up with a concrete definition feels quite daunting at this point, however, based on what I’ve read and conversations had in class, educational technology needs to: take an integrative approach, present authentic learning experiences, be accessible to all learners in some capacity, and continue to evolve with our ever-changing world even if it is met with criticism or skepticism. I’m looking forward to expanding on my initial thoughts on educational technology and learning alongside a great crew of people this semester!
Thanks for taking a read!
Until next time,