I have read what seems like several, but in reality is probably a few blog posts recently that have claimed to have examined technology in schools and found that it has made little difference in learning. Of course many of these speak in generalities lacking specifics other than there is technology and there is a classroom and they observed stuff. When it comes to technology too many believe that by dropping it into a classroom magic happens. Even the most ardent supporter of tech will tell you that does not, and never will happen.
I recently talked to an educator in higher education who told me that they had just put a pilot plan in place to explore the use of a tablet in the classroom. On the surface this sounds great. The possibility of a class full of tablets and students exploring, collaborating, creating, and publishing through a relatively intuitive and somewhat inexpensive means of technology was inspiring. I asked exactly how the “Pilot Project” was structured. (Here it comes, be prepared.) Two teachers were given tablets, one an iPad and the other another type. They were secured by some grant. The professors were told to explore the possibilities. That was the pilot. It began and ended with the purchase of the hardware.
The teachers were not trained in the use of the tablets. The teachers were not trained in the applications that could be applicable to their course. The class was not supplied tablets to use in the class. The teachers were not given any direction other than “try this out”. This was a pilot for frustration and failure. Of course the outcome is going to be that Tablets Do Not Work as effectively as the tried and true methods of Lecture and Direct Instruction.
I have read other posts that talk about textbooks being placed on iPads having the same effect as textbooks in paper form with the exception of being cheaper. Why would anyone expect digital text to be different from printed text? The idea of technology melding with textbooks is to change the dynamic of the textbook altogether. Create a medium where text can be retrieved, read, manipulated, and used for creation collaboration and publication of new ideas. Enable that created project to be archived for future reference or portfolio assessment. That is the potential of a digital textbook.
Analyzing the effect of technology in the classroom cannot be effective or dependable unless we examine the training, and understanding, of the teacher, as well as the creative and consistent application of that technology for learning in the class. Does the technology address the needs of lesson?
I also want to be very clear on this next statement. Technology may not work for every lesson in learning. There are times when it works well; enabling things to be done that would be less effective without it. There are also times where it may not fit. If the technology is being forced where it doesn’t belong, the result will not bode well for technology in the classroom. This must be a consideration. We can’t use technology for the sake of using technology. I must add that with the pace at which technology is evolving, there are fewer instances where tech does not offer better alternatives.
Of course the call from many, including educators, asks for limiting technology access. Often the argument is for more face-to-face interaction being needed by the youth of today. More and more in their world, our students are texting and using social media for their interaction. That is not something that adults can control. What is foreign to adults in regard to technology is just another aspect of their life for our students. The control of technology is no longer in the hands of educators. We cannot decide technology use for our students. If our culture slows down or decides to NOT use technology than we can stop teaching with it. Realistically however, technology will continue to evolve and that is the world in which our students will live.
Learning about technology and its application may be uncomfortable for some educators, but it is a necessity for all students. Understanding what we need to know and do in order to implement these tools for learning is a big step that many educators, have yet to take. A technology-driven culture moves at a rapid pace as the technology continues to evolve at an even faster pace. We need educators to understand that technology is not changing what we teach as much as it is changing how we teach. With continual change, we will need continual professional development. This cannot be done effectively if we base decisions on flawed observations and misconceptions about technology’s place in education. A worksheet is still a worksheet whether the text is printed or digital.