Teachers should not simply assume that computers and other new technologies are good for education

Teachers should not simply assume that computers and other new technologies are good for education. Our professional development should not try to maximize the technological tools you master in the time available (see previous post).

Instead, in learning about computers and technology in education, educators need to:

    a. Make educationally justified and sustainable choices of when and how to integrate technologies, and 

    b. Plan to learn through ongoing Professional Development how to use the technologies you decide to adopt or adapt.

In this spirit, our efforts should be addressed at becoming acquainted with using specific computer-based tools, understanding the ideas behind them, evaluating their effectiveness, and developing guidelines about specific situations and specific ways in which specific technologies can be of significant educational benefit. The guidelines to be presented in this series of posts differ, therefore, from technology standards at the time the guidelines were written (2001), which mostly accepted that computers and other new technologies are good for education and focussed attention on teachers’ acquisition of technological proficiency. (Current standards resonate much more closely with these guidelines.)

It is important to acknowledge the context in which educators are having to develop their capacity to use technology effectively in education. Although the information potentially available to anyone with internet access is rapidly expanding, knowledge can be lost in information (as the poet T. S. Eliot observed).

We need to provide tools for ourselves and for students that genuinely enhance learning. Among other things this means — as always in education — addressing the diversity of students’ intelligences, backgrounds, and interests. In this multi-faceted endeavor, teachers trying to keep up with best practices will find many unevaluated claims and unrealistic expectations, controversy, uncertainty, and rapid change.

In the area of educational technology, therefore — even more so than in others areas of education — teachers need to:

    c. Develop Learning Communities in which we help each other to learn about learning and think about change 

    d. Understand and Respond to the Push for Teachers to Use Educational Technology

    e. Examine the Wider Social Changes Surrounding Computer Use Technology

In summary, professional development in the area of technology in education should enable educators to better fulfill the needs of your school, community, or organization; address the information explosion; adapt to social changes; and collaborate with others to these ends. (Further notes on objectives b-e follow in the next post, followed then by the guidelines.)

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About Peter J. Taylor
Peter Taylor is a Professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston where he teaches and directs undergraduate and graduate programs on critical thinking, reflective practice, and science-in-society. His research and writing focuses on the complexity of environmental and health sciences in their social context, incl. Unruly Complexity: Ecology, Interpretation, Engagement (U. Chicago Press, 2005) and Nature-nurture? No (2014, http://bit.ly/NNN2014). On reflective practice, see Taking Yourself Seriously: Processes of Research & Engagement (with J. Szteiter, 2012, http://bit.ly/TYS2012).

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