Educational Technology: A Disruptive Force or Just Another Disruption?

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We know that technology use can vary greatly from classroom to classroom and school to school. Some teachers seamlessly integrate technology into their daily instruction. Others only use technology to take attendance and post grades. Educational technology can be a disruptive force in how students learn or just another disruption in the classroom. How is it perceived in your building?

The Bandwagon Effect
As new technology infiltrates the marketplace, it’s tempting to hop on the bandwagon with everyone else. We’ve watched this play out with the interactive whiteboards (IWB) explosion. Money once spent on overhead projectors and VCRs has been used to purchase digital displays and student response pads. However, it’s not unusual to find lecture-style teaching continue on this flashier screen. One teacher admitted, “It simply allows you to create digitized versions of old lessons. My kids were bored with it after about three weeks.”
Another byproduct of the bandwagon effect is the belief that if a tool works well in one district, it will work well in our district, too. The 1:1 movement is a case in point. While some districts have found success in their 1:1 initiatives, others have learned painful lessons about all-or-nothing implementation. For example, the Los Angeles Unified School District (CA) invested $1 billion to purchase iPads for every student. During the rollout, taking devices home became a logistical nightmare. Many teachers found the daily check-in and checkout cumbersome and time-consuming. In addition, parents didn’t want to be responsible for lost or broken devices. From the onset, infrastructure upgrades and student privacy protections presented a host of problems that hadn’t been considered before the devices were purchased.
The bottom line is the best learning experiences occur when students use technology to create, explore, and collaborate because it’s natural, not because it’s faddish.

The Devil is in the Details
Most of the latest gizmos and apps are in students’ hands before educators can blink. Moreover, the placement of technology in the classroom has a history of “introduce first and think about how to use it later.” Without doing our homework, any good intentions to bring a tech revolution into our building will become tokenistic or worse, an expensive failure.
When considering the rollout of new technology, pull together a focus group of students and teachers. Ask the group to list all the reasons why this technology will make a splash in the classroom. Without debating the merits, tuck the list away in a desk drawer.
Meet with the same focus group a month later. Go back through the list and identify best and worst-case scenarios for each item. Use the following probes to guide the conversation:

  1. Why is having this tech tool better than not having it?
  2. What academic gap or problem will this new technology address?
  3. Will the use of this technology actively engage students in purposeful practice that promotes deeper learning and thinking?
  4. Is the plan to train teachers on the technology practical and doable?

If adopting the technology still makes sense after a few months, begin drafting an implementation plan. If it doesn’t make sense, shelve the idea for now and return to it next year or later. With similar focus group representation, review the scenarios again to be sure you didn’t say “no” too soon.

 

 

References:
Harold, B. (2015, June). Why ed tech is not transforming how teachers teach. Education Week. Retrieved from www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2015/06/11/why-ed-tech-is-not-transforming-how.html
Marzano, R. (2009). The art and science of teaching with interactive whiteboards. Education Leadership, 67(3), pp.80-82.

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