Tuesday, September 28, 2010

History and Issues in Instructional Technology

Creighton stated that the theme of the book The Principal as Technology Leader is that effective technology integration has more to do with teaching pedagogy than the technology itself. I agree with this statement and feel it gives us a working direction. This concept puts more emphasis on using technology as a means to reach a goal as opposed to technology being the goal. The principal as leader must become involved in exploring new technologies of all kinds while keeping the focus on teaching and student learning. The principal does not want to just "purchase" new technology but instead wants to use what is already there to improve student learning and make sure any new purchases will support the same goal.

When one first hears the words "digital divide" you think of accessibility to computers, but this just barely skims the surface of what the divide is. Data shows the gap narrowing for access to computers for all students. The ratio of studnets per computer has gotten smaller, ranging from 3.0 to 6.5 with a US average of 4.9. We need to look at how those computers are used. In many of your poorer schools, the technology is used minimally for skill practice and simple word processing while at more affluent schools they are designing webpages and multimedia presentations. There also seems to be a divide in gender. Intentional or not, many girls are encouraged to remain in classes that are not as strong in computer science as the classes of their male counterparts. Special needs students, ELL students and low achieving students all need to be considered when planning technology use. Students are still being put on computers mostly for review and practice of skills, instead of more challenging uses such as web page creation or design. I think the largest gap is between high achieving and low achieving students. Many have a preconcieved notion that pow achieving students can't "do" and so are not given the opportunity to strive for a higher goal. They are given review work because that is all they can handle. We need to change our mindset and set high standards with the expectation that all can reach them. Technology can open up avenues of learning that will help many thrive and grow in many directions and build on undeveloped talents.

Technology programs fail for three main reasons - 1)inappropriate leadership 2) moving too fast and 3) failure to get the right people on board.  The moving too fast is one we have seen lots of. Keeping up with the Jones. Some new technology comes out and we have to have it, so it is purchased and minimal training is given then it is expected to be used. New tools are great but proper and continual training needs to be built in. When we teach, we don't expect every student to understand at the same time or in the same way. The same holds true for teachers. we need time to explore the technology and ask questions. Time is needed to build a working knowledge of the technology and then to apply it to what we want to accomplish. The second in order of relevance is inappropriate leadership. Inappropriate can be too little or too much. The best design would be for a principal as leader to identify issues for decision making and then lead the discussion amongst all stakeholders (parents, students, teachers, businesses and community members) to drive the process forward for the good of all. This touches on the last aspect of getting the right people on board. The community as a whole is invested in the education of our future leaders and we need them to see what we are aiming for and why.

My school does not have a technology plan that I am aware of, however I do think there is one for the school system. Research was done through pilot school in the county to see if IWBs would be beneficial for instruction. My school was one of the pilot schools and we all felt that the IWBs enhanced our instruction and provided more use of the internet and other technology resources as a  whole. I also got to serve on a committee that created flipcharts that would address county standards in math across elementary school grade levels.
I think a plan is necessary for technology use and loved Lempke's quote that
“There should be no technology plan, only a school improvement plan that has technology as an important component in it.”  This seems to ring true if we believe that technology is to enhance our instruction and learning and not be seen as a separate component. The goal is to know where we want to go, why do we want to go there, and how will we know when we get there. We need to realize where we are compared to where we want to be and start the building blocks to get us there.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

What is Educational Technology?

The definition of "educational technology" is ever evolving. There are currently 4 perspectives that help define educational technology. Technology as 1)media and audio visual communications 2)instructional systems and designs 3)vocational training and 4)computer systems. Educational technology combines all of these and can be seen as the process and tools involved in addressing educational needs and problems.

Ongoing training needs to given to educators at all levels since technology tools are constantly emerging and changing. Other factors that influence education and technology use are -

Societal- Economics, the downturn in the economy has hit all levels including education, but the question remains will education receive those funds back as the economy improves. We must move ahead with the expectation that it will not. Anti-technology positions, some say there are too many risks associated with technology such as privacy, internet cyberporns and predators as well as competing dollars for other programs such as music and the arts. NCLB, has also impacted this as educational funding has dwindled but the expectations for educators to meet the needs of all students has risen. How to allocate funds is based on priorities that have research to back it up. This makes it ever more challenging to justify technology expenses along with potential risks to student users. Continued research results and best practices will help in this endeavor.

Educational- Standards movement, having to meet high stakes tests may allow technology use to help students and teachers reach this goal. Internet and Distance education, allows access to courses and degrees that might not otherwise be attainable. Directed vs. Inquiry-based instruction, long used and well validated is directed instruction. Inquiry-based is more modern but is still gathering data to prove effectiveness and how it meets the standards.

Cultural- Digital divide, the discrepancy in access to technology affected by economic status, race, gender and special needs.

Legal and Ethical- Viruses and Hacking, the ability to safeguard against these have sometimes restricted use. Plagiarism, greater online access makes easier for students to plagiarize but sites have also emerged to help teachers"catch" this and hopefully quell it. Privacy/safety, making sure to instruct all about guarding personal information. Copyright, online availability to publications sets up the need to make sure that teachers and students are aware of copyright laws for published works, even if found on the internet.

With all this information, it is easy to see what educators that want technology included in education are up against. Arming ourselves with this information and then building upon it, we hope to inform the communities we are in (starting within our school -with teachers, administrators and parents to reaching out to local businesses in the community that have a vested interest in the success of our schools) that technology is not supplemental to the education process but needs to be an integral part of education. Getting the community to understand the growing needs of society and to see that technology has reached into every realm of work. By introducing and allowing students experience with many forms of technology will equip them for an ever changing future.