Sunday, January 18, 2009

Learning Through Technology: A Response to E-TIPS

In reading over Sara Dexter’s E-Tips [PDF], (how to integrate and implement technology in education) I’m wondering a few things.

She emphasizes the importance of using technology where it can enhance learning, only where it can further our learning objectives. This is, of course, essential. We want to choose the best of all resources to further our learning objectives. But is technology ever the objective itself? I get the sense that Dexter is arguing against technology for technology’s sake. Which, at first glance, sounds good. But what about objectives like proper keyboarding, technology/Internet safety, responsibility and ethics, the use of digital photo/video and editing, and web design? Some of these objectives could easily be integrated into the curriculum, but some are likely more effective as stand-alone lessons.

Secondly, while theoretically I agree that technology should only be used when it is driven by the desired learning outcome, one could make an argument that technology can support almost any learning outcome, if it is engaging to the students and therefore motivates their learning.

I think what’s really important in the integration of technology in the classroom is balance. I would not want to use technology to the point where face-to-face interaction was diminished or nonexistent, where pen-and-paper writing was rare, where information was found only online. But we live in a technological world now. Children are introduced to technology at a very young age, the vast majority of careers now utilize technology in some way, shape, or form. Using technology as either a platform or door for learning situates learning in real-world context.

I do, however, appreciate the emphasis on a collaborative and supportive school environment toward promoting an effective integration of technology. I have found that teachers are often left to discern how, when, and why to integrate technology into their classrooms on their own, with little technological or curricular support. This is not entirely surprising to me, despite the increased importance of collaboration in schools, I find that classrooms are still largely independent entities, “owned,” in a sense, by the individual teachers. I have seen a shift toward additional collaboration but still see resistance to it from some teachers who view it perhaps as an infringement on their classroom teaching or one additional task to take on, instead of viewing it as it should be viewed: as a way of improving teaching and learning and actually making our lives easier. I would add to the e-Tips by recommending that collaboration among teachers and within schools could itself incorporate technology. Teachers who couldn’t find enough time in the day could meet for 15 minutes or so in a chatroom without all having to be in the same physical location, they could create a grade level blog to discuss curriculum and pedagogy, choosing either to keep the blog and commenting private or to open it to the larger community.

While I think Sara Dexter offers some important ideas to think about regarding the implementation of technology, I think it is difficult to define a specific outline for doing so, as it depends largely on the school and its resources, the classroom, the teacher’s knowledge and the student interests. Of course, as is the case with all educational resources and goals, we have to choose carefully and consider our students before determining which path is best.

1 comment:

  1. Good points, the technology integration does rely on many things (such as resources and school support) but ultimately the choice of technology should be driven by the learning outcomes rather than the technology itself. We'll come back to this concept of "value added" later on, stay tuned!