Getting on the technology bus

I am ever astounded at the fast pace of the changes in the world of technology.  The role of technology in education is moving out of the computer lab in the classroom, leading to a greater importance to prepare all educators for technology integration. 

New technology is a lightning rod and polarizing force because it not only begins to influence what we see and how we see it, but, over time, who we are.” (Nicholas Carr, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains.)

In a recent discussion concerning further technology adoption in my school, the point was made that we must consider some key points.

  • What pedagogical practices are being impacted with the inclusion of technology and does it make sense to bring about that change?
  • What do teachers feel comfortable with related to technology, and how do we provide them professional development to feel more comfortable?
  • Do we adopt new technologies knowing that teachers are unfamiliar with their practices and uses? 
  • How do technologies truly impact student learning and skill development?

Teachers can enhance their lectures with presentation software, videos and other forms of multimedia, but the methods stay the same. For teachers who don’t understand how these new tools can enhance what they are teaching, then technology can be a distraction.” (Aran Levasseur, Teaching Without Technology? | MindShift)

As an example, I recently observed a teacher utilizing a Smartboard in our building.  We are moving to adopt more in the next school year and some teachers are eager to try it out now.  Many see it as a great tool and perfect for today’s learning, but as this eager teacher found out in is not the education panacea.

What happens when it doesn’t work perfectly? 
This teacher thought you hook it up and it works.  However, it was not so.  First was how to hook it up, then what if it didn’t project properly, and what if the board needs to be re-calibrated?  What do to if the software decides to quit or the downloaded lesson doesn’t work quite right?  These pitfalls can happen with any technology. 

How does the lesson on the board translate to good teacher?  
The lesson doesn’t replace good teaching.  The board is just the medium through which good teaching takes place, just as if with a worksheet, text book or other tool.  A good teacher should be able to teach with or without the board with the same effectiveness, and adapt the lesson with the ebbs and flows that technology can bring.

How does the Smartboard impact student learning? 
As one person in the meeting brought up when I mentioned the impact I had seen on student engagement in using the board since September, that it wasn’t the board itself, but the impact of my teaching and ability to engage students through the use of the board.  With any technology, thought should be given to its true impact on learning in the classroom.  



What does this all mean? 

This gave thought to the adoption of any technology, Smartboard, laptops, iPads, etc… Those that understand the technology need to guide teachers first, and provide the technology second.  While there a great thoughts for how important technology is to 21st Century learning, it is also important to consider at what pace these adoptions and changes are brought into the classroom.  

Technology can be great a method for alternate assessment and a means to complete a skill, but we need to instruct students how to do this, just as we instruct them to complete a math equation or formulate an essay.  Students cannot learn how to best utilize the tools if teachers are not on the bus with them.

“What’s important to remember is that your colleagues did not get there overnight. What’s also important to remember is that you can only glean so much about a lesson or project through a tweet, a blog post or a quick walk by a classroom door. I can remember thinking that a project I did was really “cool,” only to realize that it wasn’t necessarily as effective as I would have liked. From the outside, my lesson looked great — the kids were content creators, their work was shared with the world and they were using a digital tool of some kind — but my project objective or outcome was fuzzy, or the process to get there left much to be desired.
Most people who successfully integrate technology into their classrooms on a daily basis have not always had success. Their road to successful lessons has been plagued by tech failures, poor time management, misleading directions or an incomplete understanding of the tool or technology they were putting into their students’ hands.” (Mary Beth Hertz, @mbteach)

So as schools move forward to include more technologies into the classroom, make sure that right people, the teachers, are on the bus first, and then make sure the bus is headed in the right direction, impacting student achievement.  Don’t be afraid to adopt in waves, and to wait to see if the technology is truly having an impact before going to the next stop.  

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About Sharon LePage Plante

Sharon Plante, an educator with 20 years teaching experience in special education, has been an educator at Eagle Hill-Southport for over eleven years, as well as currently serving as Director of Technology. She utilizes her educational training and love of technology to engage students with learning disabilities in building their skills and finding success. Sharon is the co-author of Using Technology to Engage Students with Learning Disabilities. She was awarded the 2016 Distinguished Alumni Award from George Mason University College of Education and Human Development. She has presented at Everyone Reading, EdRev, Edscape, ATIA (Assistive Technology Industry Association), and New York Chapter of ALTA (Academic Language Trainers Association), as well as at several EdCamps, on using technology to empower the dyslexic learner. Sharon is the 2015-2017 chair of the Connecticut Association of Independent Schools Commission on Technology. Additionally, she hosts a podcast for Bam Radio Network on Learning Differently bringing together the voices of those working in the many aspects of special education. Sharon is a co-founder of #edtechchat, and co-organizer of EdCampSWCT.
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5 Responses to Getting on the technology bus

  1. Andrew says:

    This is great! This is such an important conversation for every school to have, and for every teacher to have.

    Douglas Rushkoff wrote a book called Program or be Programmed (Amazon.com: Kindle), and his blog is pretty interesting too — watch how he reminds readers that they are Facebook’s product, not customers, and that they pretty much have no right to protest any of Facebook’s changes.

    Without sending you to read the whole book, Rushkoff points out that everyone should learn to program, just so they know how computers work. He argues that knowing how to code should be as fundamental as learning the alphabet or arithmetic — and I would argue, as fundamental as learning Dave Gray’s Semigram.

    The challenge here is that a goes through several iterations, which follow the steps outlined by that famous programmer, Mohandas K. Gandhi:

    First they ignore you,
    then they laugh at you,
    then they fight you,
    then you win

    … which is to say that first a new tool seems ridiculous, but then pioneers and early adopters are at a significant advantage, while late adopters begin to wonder if this is really in their best advantage, and then the tool is suddenly both ubiquitous and necessary. We can imagine the keepers of Acheulean tool tradition wondering what to make of the explosion of new tools, and saying, “no, no, the old handaxe is good enough for us.”

    The only way to know how to code — or to use presentation software, or to use a SmartBoard, or to run a student project, or teach Scratch, or develop new tech-based class materials — is to DO it. Failure, persistence, and success — the great Trinity of Learning — are the only ways that I’ve learned to use digital tools, or to integrate them into my teaching. Have I made mistakes? Yes. Appalling ones. Have I had success? Yes, wonderful ones. But this technology landscape is a pathless land — more tools, more programs, more technologies, more directions than any one teacher can possibly master.

    Digital tools are enormously powerful, but digital tools have a built-in learning curve which is much steeper than the point-and-click Acheulean handaxe. Time and again, I’ve seen the argument that “the teachers need to be trained first” in the technology used by teachers as an excuse not to learn the technology – not to enter the cycle of mistake, persistence, and success in the first place, but rather to keep using the same old methods.

    And yet, as Rushkoff points out, this technology isn’t going away. E-mail has been around since the mid-1980s; the World Wide Web since the mid 1990s. Presentation software is getting more complex; movie-making software is getting easier to use; cameras are becoming more ubiquitous; access to digital imagery keyed to need via search engines has never been more widespread. What was once a plaything of geeks is now ubiquitous; what was once an unnecessary toy is now a necessary, multipurpose tool. We can observe great ironies from literature invading human spaces, or we can work to change them by teaching other literature that uses different models of distribution than traditional publishing.

    I think we teachers can be fairly criticized for asking students to enter this cycle of mistake, persistence, and success each and every day, and yet being unwilling to enter it ourselves. Lest you think I’m being overly harsh here, though, I want to ask you — did you notice in this comment that there are functioning links and text alterations? Did you ask yourself, “Do I know how to do that? How would I learn how to do that? How would I teach my students how to do that?”

    Or is there a large amount of visible programming language gobbledegook? Did you ask yourself, “Why is all that garbage in Andrew’s comment?” Or did you ask, “Where’s his programming error? Oh, I see it. It’s there.”

    This very comment is programmed. It’s written in HTML. The code may work, or it may not. But there’s only one way to learn how to do it: Try and find out what works, and what doesn’t. How do we get more teachers to adopt the attitude that learning the digital attitude of playfulness and experimentation matters?

    • iplantes says:

      Such a thoughtful response! You are so right, we as teachers ask much our students that we are not willing to do ourselves. Technology is here to stay, we are in the world 21st Century Learning, and teachers need to find a way to embrace it and meet it at whatever level they comfortable with as a starting point.

  2. Pingback: Student Filmmakers Find a Voice Through a Technology Program « Brandon's Educational Blog

  3. Pingback: Using the Internet to teach and teaching students how to use the Internet « for Teaching Outside the Box

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