Cautious Optimist

On the continuum of Skeptic to Enthusiast (or is it vice-versa?), I would put myself as a cautious optimist. I have a high level of skepticism for social media, but it is important for schools to project and communicate the image of the school and if necessary attract new students.
Living and working in Germany, I have become sensitised to the issues connecting social media and privacy (especially the new GDPR regulations).
I hope that “Technology” is more than just Social Media. I see it as a means to

  • Communicate internally & externally
  • introduce efficiencies / reduce reduncancies
  • re-shape the way teaching and learning is done
  • use data to track student progress and inform parents
  • use data to observe trends
  • use data to make and evaluate decisions

Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology (Collins & Halverson, 2009)

Chapter 2 – The Technology Enthusiasts’ Arguement

The enthusiasts would argue that schools are the place to teach the skills at the same time learners have access to access knowledge at the time of need. These seem somewhat in opposition to me. We should recognize that technology’s ability to collect and process data means that students can avoid the more time-consuming mundane tasks and focus on the big ideas, but this presumes that they have the capacity to do the maths or the processing of data so that they understand the conceptual output of the “machine”.
A lot of the arguments focus on using the technology tool, i.e. computers, to work within the constraints of the tool. It does little to discuss the development of new technologies and new tools which may require a deeper understanding of the underlying mechanisms. Technology is the application of Science and Science relies on a different skill set than technology.

Chapter 3 – The Technology Skeptics’ Argument

The authors start out by pointing out that change is inevitable and have cherry-picked some convenient arguments at the beginning of the chapter. It is doubtful that even though in 1950 a single statement that may very well have been hyperbole was ever enacted by either the regulators or accepted by the large body of schools, teachers and parents.
Computers in classrooms range from being a distraction to a limited resource. The central argument here is that the teachers and the schools have been given a tool and told to use it, but more and more it seems that the students know as much or more about them and this “power inversion” leads to frustration. We could envisage a utopian world where the teacher had constructed a bespoke lesson for each child and they controlled their own learning. This will require a major culture shift as well as high levels of maturity from the learners.

Teachers will need more training on how to cultivate new learner behaviours and become themselves learners of new tools.

The key to 21st century classrooms isn’t tech. It’s evolved teaching.

“Are we willing to change our expectations for how and what students learn?”

(“The Key to 21st Century Classrooms Isn’t Tech. It’s Evolved Teaching. – EdSurge News,” 2018)

Of the three classrooms, the first has a technology, but isn’t using it; the second is using technology but in a highly controlled manner. In the third classroom, technology is present but is also applied to a larger context so that it is not just vehicle for learning but is being used to enhance learning.

The Future of Classroom Technology: 5 Experts Weigh In
(Davis & Michelle R. Davis, 2017)

Richard Culatta suggests that technology has several benefits – first to deliver content to areas (schools/teachers/students) that previously lacked access. Secondly to maintain a more up-to-date body of content. He acknowledges that we do not have mature enough tools or classroom cultures to have personalized learning, but can envision it.

Peggy Ertmer reminds us that this change will have to be managed by effective leaders who have a vision for how changes can embrace technology and vice versa.

Hansmann and Langford are a good example of a team of an academic and an information technologist working together to bring about change. They recongize it’s slow going as well.

It took us 2½ years of focused, challenging work to build the infrastructure that would support us now but also scale fast enough for the future. (Langford)

(Davis & Michelle R. Davis, 2017)

Nicholas Schriner reminds us that we still have to get our hands dirty sometimes. The new wave of “Makers Spaces” is a balancing factor for an increasingly isolated but connected world

Right now, society is more in a consuming mode rather than a creation mode. (Schriner)

(Davis & Michelle R. Davis, 2017)

As schools increase the number of MakerSpaces, the technology integration required will increase and this will have a synergistic effect upon the transparent inclusion of technology.

Michael Wesch

I just watched the video on YouTube with Michael Wesch (Wesch, 2014) and there were a few points that were interesting to me.
Firstly, I’m not sure this video is really so much about technology, but more about good teaching practice (and I will assimilate some of these). Some key points I noted are:

  • Deep Learning vs. Strategic Learning
    • Is technology often perceived as a way to simply be more efficient at strategic learning, or does it facilitate deep learning?
    • It would be nice to think that it does both, but like so many things we (students and teachers) become the victims of (time) pressures.
    • The tool is only as good as the person using it.
  • igital aritifacts are the residue of collaboration
  • Technology can be used to drive curiosity when we get away from strategic learning

So back to the beginning; technology is a tool, but the user has to have a purpose, a goal and the time and place to use it.

Bibliography

  1. Collins, A., & Halverson, R. (2009). Rethinking education in the age of technology. Teachers College Pr.
  2. Davis, M., & Michelle R. Davis, B. (2017, June 12). The Future of Classroom Technology: 5 Experts Weigh In. Retrieved March 30, 2019, from Education Week website: https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2017/06/14/the-future-of-classroom-technology-5-experts.html
  3. The Key to 21st Century Classrooms Isn’t Tech. It’s Evolved Teaching. – EdSurge News. (2018, June 4). Retrieved March 30, 2019, from EdSurge website: https://www.edsurge.com/news/2018-06-04-the-key-to-21st-century-classrooms-isn-t-tech-it-s-evolved-teaching
  4. Wesch, M. (2014, January 16). Michael Wesch: The End of Wonder in the Age of Whatever. Retrieved March 30, 2019, from YouTube website: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B0Ghq7UWqpQ

4 thoughts on “Cautious Optimist

  1. I especially appreciate this line from your blog post: “technology is a tool, but the user has to have a purpose, a goal and the time and place to use it.”
    I think that one fantastic set of resources for any educational institution or individual looking to responsibly incorporate technology is the “ISTE Standards for Educators”. https://www.iste.org/standards/for-educators

  2. I also hope that technology is more than just social media. When I observe what young people are doing online, they are simply surfing the regular social media sites, liking images and commenting on a friend’s post. Oh! And don’t let me forget being experts in photo filtering. I often wonder if they explore different, effective ways to use their devices within their learning tasks. Like you, I would like to see technology reshape the way we learn and do things. A professor I knew assigned a task and asked the class to determine how they were going to tackle it. I liked this, as it allowed students to be free, to use their creativity and explore. This is how I imagine the optimal classroom setting to be.

  3. Wow, I really like how you have done this. Not sure how you have done it but the format of your blog is great.
    On the content I really agree about recognising that technology can do a lot of the low level replicative tasks while the human factor can work on the big ideas and conceptual understandings. My concern here (part of my sceptic) is that as the relative intelligence of machines rises, these low level, replicative tasks may outstrip average human ability and therefore displace human capital. In the future workplace humans may well then be displaced and made redundant by machines. I wonder if those machines will have to pay tax?

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