More notes on the use of educational technology

This post expands on the objectives presented in the previous post for educators when learning about computers and technology in education.  (The objectives set the scene for general guidelines for the use of educational technology to be presented in the next post).

Consider objectives b to e in turn:

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

Administrators have often allocated funds for new software and hardware and promoted new initiatives to promote computers in education without providing teachers the training, support, and opportunities for ongoing professional development they need to use those purchases well and keep up with initiatives (Becker 1994). In order to address this imbalance the first goal of any course should be to engender in teachers a commitment to and capacity for ongoing professional development (PD).

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

PD is like a journey in that it takes us into unknown areas or allow us to see familiar areas in a fresh light; involve risk; require support; create more experiences than can be integrated at first sight; and yield personal changes. In this sense, PD is also personal development and it is essential from the outset to work on building learning communities (see Appendix 1 for more on PD learning communities). In a PD Learning Community we can learn a lot from each other and from teaching others what we know (see Appendix 2 on Learning to use new tools). We can also transfer this learning community model into how we help students learn and into how we find technology “mentors” to guide and support our future, self-directed learning.

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

The push for teachers to use educational technology often means we try to bring computers into teaching without a clear idea of pedagogical advantages and of ways to ensure learning happens and knowledge is gained. We should be able to respond to the push with more discrimination and to influence decision-making if we:

    a) develop guidelines about specific situations and specific ways in which specific technologies are of significant pedagogical benefit;
    b) identify questions that need to be researched (or that we need to locate the up to date research on);
    c) evaluate critically the stated reasons given for the push; and
    d) understand the less-often-discussed reasons (social, historical, commercial, administrative).

(See Appendix 3 for warm-up, critical thinking exercise.)

e. Examine the Wider Social Changes Surrounding Computer Use

To be creative and critical about the use of technological tools we should consider possible future changes in computers and related technology in society at large — many of these will feed into education and into our lives and those of our students. A toolkit for thinking about these visions of the future would include themes to interpret where we have come from (the history of computers in society, Edwards 1996) and alternative possibilities for where we might be going. As Joseph Weizenbaum, author of Computer Power and Human Reason responded, when asked if computers could one day replace teachers, “Yes, computers could to that, but why would you want them to?”

References

Becker, H. J. (1994). “A truly empowering technology-rich education‹How much will it cost?” Educational IRM Quarterly 3(1): 31-35.
Edwards, P. N. (1996). The Closed World: Computers and the Politics of Discourse in Cold War America. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Extracted from http://www.faculty.umb.edu/pjt/etguidelines.html

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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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