Much of the ed tech hysteria in schools has been fueled by the presentation by Karl Fisher and Scott McLeod entitled Did You Know?/Shift Happens. The video has been remixed several times but the central theme is that we live in an information age and that schools must prepare students for a 21st century world for jobs that don't even exist yet. I do not mean to throw Fisher or McLeod under the bus. However, when educators and non-educators alike do nothing more than jump on the ed tech bandwagon I believe we do more harm than good.
The nagging desire to find a quick fix solution to close the achievement gap, bandwagoners, and American corporatism that has infiltrated schools has birthed an entire industry that reinvents the wheel but does little to solve actual problems. I am a huge proponent of technology in the classroom when that technology serves a purpose. Using some form of technology to teach a concept must somehow add to the students' understanding of that concept rather than simply take the place of pencil, paper, and/or lecture, particularly if pencil, paper, and lecture are the most effective and efficient methods of delivery.
What is Effective Ed Tech ?
Effective educational technology is interactive for individual students and still allows students to struggle with problems. Whiteboards (Promethean, Smart, etc) offer cursory interactivity and are often nothing more than overhead projectors. Even when using the pre-packaged proprietary software that typically accompanies a Promethean Board or Smart Board installation interactivity is usually limited to one student coming up to the board at a time. Even adding the student response systems limits interactivity because rather than having to struggle with an algorithm students are able to just push a button to select an answer. Obviously when used like this the technology is little more than window dressing and serves more as a distraction disguised as a tool for engagement. Many software packages and web based games fall under this description of ineffective technology.
Effective classroom technology must have the following characteristics:
1. The technology allows the student to struggle with a problem.
2. Helps the student to develop a stronger conceptual understanding of the problem.
3. The technology must be interactive for individual students at the same time.
4. Feedback with explanations, examples, and alternatives must be immediately available for students.
5. The technology should engage and activate new critical thinking skills rather than make it easier for students to figure out an answer.
6. Obviously, the technology should encompass some sort of A/V component. This almost goes without saying
Technology in the classroom is a very good thing and a very positive thing...when that technology appropriately designed for its intended audience of consumers. Too often ed tech relies on one way delivery, has cursory interactive components, and serves as nothing more than a distraction for students rather than an authentic form of engagement. If that is all the ed tech companies have to offer us we're all better off with computers in the classroom, chalkboards, lecture, and good pedagogy.
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Jovan's articles on So Educated
Jovan specializes in the use of verbal, visual, and symbolic representations of mathematics in his instructional strategies. His experience includes work as a special education co-teacher in mathematics classes utilizing his own curriculum. He has participated in extensive professional development in the use of technology in the classroom but is largely self taught in matters of technology.
The use of technology for technology’s sake is not something he is a proponent of -- form does not trump function. With a keen interest in changing the ways K12 education views technology, he realizes that it first must occur at the student and teacher level then move upward through the various levels of leadership. True 21st century classrooms will grow organically and out of necessity rather than through a district mandate.
Jovan also blogs at jovanmiles.net covering the following areas: quantitative educational research, using technology for teacher collaboration, instructional technology, mathematics education, and special education inclusion models.