This is a relevant question for me at day 19/30 of the #AprilBlogaDay challenge.
When, how, and why do I recommend technology in the classroom?
15% of the way through the 21st Century is no time to ask when technology should be in a classroom. However, if you find yourself in this conversation try to tease out what is really being asked.
Are we talking about grade-level appropriateness of certain technologies?
I do have strong feelings on the large display in every classroom versus interactive whiteboards, IWBs:
Does every classroom need a large display? YES. The large display needs to be for consumption of whole group information.
Does it need to be an IWB? MAYBE, but only if it is developmentally appropriate and the students will actually interact with the IWB, otherwise NO.
Schlechty points out that students in early elementary are less averse to academic risk-taking behavior than secondary students. Partially due to this, teachers design instruction in a whole/small group setting. Students are more focused on the approval of the teacher than of his/her peers. This outlook on academic risk-taking behavior shifts in the secondary grades; students now care more about what one another think than what the teacher thinks. The chance of a pre/teenager taking an academic risk in front of peers diminishes, making and IWB not student centered, non-collaborative, not interactive, and not as effective in the upper grades.
Technology should be student centered; it is not instructional technology unless students are using it to direct their learning. It should not be a one-at-a-time technology, but have some element of collaboration.
Other, less expensive, technologies have similar considerations. Laptop devices are more appropriate the higher the grade, while tablets can work for younger creators.
Content also needs to be evaluated and applied by age of learner in most cases. On tablets, I find the iOS apps have a higher consistent quality than Android apps. However, you still need to look for apps which promote creation over consumption whenever possible.
Are we talking about making the teacher’s job easier?
There are technologies which ease the job of the teacher and there are technologies which ease learning for students. I am for both, predictably my bias is that the latter be favored over the former.
IWBs are much more of a make-a-teacher’s-job-easier in the secondary grade level, spend the $2-3,000+ on student devices instead.
There are infrastructures which need to be addressed first so that teachers do not have to be such technical tech support, spend that money to make a teacher’s job easier. Purchase hardware which can function well for the life of a product. Have enough staff on location to address needs as they rise. Ultimately all those “easiers” add up to student learning.
The highest level technology-competent in a district needs to make strong, clear, consistent recommendations on technology hardware. Hardware needs to be something which has been thoroughly evaluated by the staff which will maintain it. It needs to meet the broadest instructional needs of the school(s).
Hardware should be something that survives any one teacher in a classroom from the district point of view; it cannot be so specific that is one teacher use. Installation uniformity can control costs of repositioning items repeatedly, this includes placement of whiteboards and projectors. Although a teacher might have a design idea that would work well with his/her instruction, it only makes economic sense to either have technologies which are fully mobile or installed in a more uniform manner.
Some hardwares are more developmentally appropriate in elementary and/or secondary settings. Leadership should have recommendations not only by recency of technologies, but developmental appropriateness, task orientation, and have a price range of choices within each of those categories for groups to select from.
Software should be evaluated for meeting instructional goals and meeting the needs for the target audience by those closest to the teaching and learning, and usability by technical authorities. To successfully do this a joint venture between schools and broader group of technologists needs to exist. Sometimes this is accomplished through a Software Committee, but the important thing is that instructors are assisted with making informed decisions for efficiency of learning.
WHY: Technology Amplifies Teaching
Whatever type of teaching and learning which is happening in your classroom, technology will amplify it. The first task is to make certain the teaching and learning is of high quality before applying technology. Looking again at the model for improving the time and effort to complete teaching tasks versus making learning for students easier, I think the only time to roll out a technology en masse is to all teachers in the form of machine upgrades, or software application access.
But to give out instructional technologies should be more intentional. Because, the technology will amplify whatever type of instruction is going on in a classroom. Question the wisdom of any technology meant to amplify instruction which “goes out to all (insert any group),’ because shouldn’t we expect some classrooms or teacher be ready for it before others?
One of the more interesting movements is the Bring Your Own Technology/Device (BYOT or BYOD). The thought is to allow the students to bring technologies which they have and use them in the schools. This should give us a tremendous vantage point into the roles technologies play in our students lives.We can learn from our students through observing what they use and how they use it. Instead of trying to apply our pre-web2.0 background to current students we could actually learn through observation.
Our goal for technology in the classroom should be transparency. The technology needs to become so useful, so crucial to the learning yet not be the focus of our interactions i the classroom. Technology will accomplish the task at hand of integrating technology in the classroom when it is transparent.