Where are we headed with technology in education?

Technology has never more rapidly evolved than in the last 100 years but will it keep changing at such a drastic rate?  Will we always feel a step behind in the classroom because it takes longer for technology to logistically reach the institute, and by the time it does, it is almost obsolete?  There has been some steady progressions of technology addressed in the Horizon Reports each year, however, I find that they do not cover everything for everyone and we are so behind in most instances.  I think that educators are only just catching up to the fact that technology allows for the educator to take a step back, loosen control and give more over to students, so that they can direct their own learning a bit more.

[youtube https://youtu.be/nA1Aqp0sPQo]

I get a little overwhelmed by the videos out there like the one above as it highlights just how real the impact of technology on the world is.  When I was in Year 6, I distinctly remember a class discussion where we pondered the future of education and speculated that it might include computers as teachers.  Well that has not exactly become reality, or has it? Whilst I do not believe we are headed towards completely transformed educational institutes, governed by androids who are the teachers and various forms of artificial intelligence, I do think that pedagogy and practice is changing.  Have a look at the Gartner Hype Cycle 2014 for emerging technologies and education below.

That’s a pretty real picture of what technology is going to be at the forefront of society in coming years.  If we look carefully at the cycle above, it will be in the next 5-10 years that technology explodes again into a world of more 3D printing, robotics, and wearable technologies.  However, will they reach the classroom?  If so, how and for what purpose and under what infrastructure, funding or initiatives?  Some provocation in such images, but I guess its a waiting game too.

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Educational Technology – Affordances

In my research and reading this week I have been contemplating the affordances of technology, where we have come from and where we are going with technology.  Some of the articles I have read, addressing the affordances of technology, focus too much on the negative impact of technology and not enough on the positive affordances of it.

The Internet is a wealth of information and it is tempting to think we can send students there for information and that they 1. know how to find the correct information; 2. know what to do with it; and, 3. able to interpret it and make meaning from it. However, we know this to be untrue from our own experiences.  As I was reading the Sanders (2006) article, I was concerned at the large amount of negative comments made about technology.  I feel that whilst technology does present issues as well as affordances that benefit the learners, it is often the issues that educators focus on more.  We must focus on the positive affordances and learn to go beyond the superficial layer of activities that most never move out of with technology integration.  There are opportunities for collaboration, creativity, communication, analysis and so much more, provided by technology.

The positive affordances I got from the Sanders (2006) reading were:

  • Technology does provide the potential for learners to become more critical consumers and users of information and technology
  • Communication opportunities are increased
  • Learners can learn through the experiences of others, e.g. those who have travelled and kept a blog, virtual reality excursions and so many more interactive activities
  • Learners can have “technically personal experiences of learning” (Sanders, 2006, p. 4), e.g. through simulations
  • Access to information is anywhere, anytime
  • Ubiquitous access to multimodal forms of information

Hoven (2007) explores further affordances of technology when looking at how a Masters in Education program utilised technology to resolve some problems with timetabling, course content and pedagogy.  Hoven (2007) shares how technology fixed the timetabling issues by being open 24/7 online; communication was enhanced through blogs, wikis, discussion forums and chat; and, scaffolding of content using WebQuests.

I experienced Web 2.0 technologies very early in my career and they were a successful way to communicate and collaborate with my students right from the first time I utilised them in a class.  McLoughlin and Lee (2007) make great points about the affordances of technology when they discuss how content on social networking sites, termed “microcontent” (p. 664) is such small fragments that it can be “combined and recombined by individuals to produce new patterns, images and interpretations” (p. 664) of information.  They note that it is such technologies as web 2.0 tools that facilitate greater choice for learners and enable increased self-direction.  The authors state that it is by their technical specifications that the affordances of web 2.0 technologies are known as it is stated in those simple details.  E.g. Yahoo Instant Messenger makes instant messages possible.

Some other affordances listed include:

  • “Connectivity and social rapport
  • Collaborative information discovery and sharing
  • Content creation, and
  • Knowledge and information aggregation and content modification”  (p. 667).

What educators use technology for is often very different from the affordances of technology.  Do educators know the affordances of technology like they should?  How could this be changed in the future?  I hope that in the future we see technology continue to be a personal tool for learning in the future but in a way that is more natural and less intrusive on time and attention.  This will require all educators and students to have the knowledge and skills to confidently use their technology, devices and software, without requiring additional instructions, is this going to be possible?

References

Hoven, D. (2007). The affordances of technology for student-teachers to shape their Teacher Education experience. In K. Murphy-Judy, M. Peters, M. A. Kassen, & R. Lavine (Eds.), Preparing and Developing Technology-proficient L2 Teachers. CALICO monograph 6, San Marcos, TX: CALICO, 133–164.

McLoughlin, C., & Lee, M. J. (2007, December). Social software and participatory learning: Pedagogical choices with technology affordances in the Web 2.0 era. In ICT: Providing choices for learners and learning. Proceedings ascilite Singapore 2007 (pp. 664-675).

Sanders, R. (2006). The” Imponderable Bloom”: Reconsidering the Role of Technology in Education. Innovate: Journal of Online Education2(6).

Professional development – What works for school-based training?

Given my current position at school, the professional development of staff in technology and technology integration is a high priority for me.  However, what is the best way to motivate staff and engage staff in fruitful professional development?  Teachers are time poor and essentially blinded by the tunnel vision that is there day to day workload and tasks.  Yes there are times of relief from face-to-face (f2f) teaching to complete such tasks but there is still inevitably not sufficient time to engage in ongoing professional development (PD) for most.  I want to be able to motivate my colleagues and engage them in ongoing PD but what is going to work as a model for all, not a one-size-fits-all model but a flexible model that can cater for all?

I’ve been reading a book called Transforming Classroom Practice: Professional Development Strategies in Educational Technology and its prompting me to consider many different factors effecting the culture of PD at school.  When I worked for PLANE I saw increasing numbers of teachers state-wide and then nationally, get on board with online learning for their own PD but not all teachers seem keen to use their own time to engage in these kinds of PD activities.  Should it be that this is an option but that is more of a blended model?  I think I’m leaning towards a blended model of offering certain sessions f2f but then supporting that with online modules as well, in a flipped classroom style.  (Related blog post).

What I envisage doing then is making videos and setting a very short reading perhaps to introduce a new concept or skill to the staff, then we can focus the workshop session purely on just doing practical design and development of learning activities, applying what is learned.  Will this work?  I’m not entirely sure but it’s worth a try.  From reading the above mentioned book I have learned so much about how PD should run and one of the very first points I wrote down was this:

“Students whose teachers are technology trained outperform those with teachers who are not technology trained.”

This was a confronting point and a real reality check for the importance of PD in educational technology so what is the best way to approach it?  The book suggests that PD could be individually focused or socially/group focused but there are clear points to consider for either.

  • Listen to the teachers and what they want and need
  • Find out how the teachers define themselves as a teacher
  • Facilitate growth
  • What is their individual and collective experience, interests and background?
  • Offer choices
  • Set goals both individually and collectively
  • Involve teachers in the design and planning of PD
  • Incorporate basic skills with higher order thinking skills
  • Allow self-discovery, less instruction and direction given
  • Allow mistakes
  • Interact with teachers and acknowledge their efforts

I have a lot more to read and research in considering the best design for PD at school when integrating educational technology but so far this book has been very valuable.