"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.