Thursday, September 18, 2014

Educational Technology is like being on the Starship Enterprise...

This week's session with guest lecturer, Rick Schwier provided some interesting insight into the history of educational technology and the role it has had in propelling the direction of learning.... As I was examining his slides of the "movers and shakers" of educational technology, I couldn't help but wonder if any of these individuals in the middle of their research realized that they were really shaking up and shaping education. I mean did they think... "Wow, this project is really going to blow everyone's socks off!"? 

Another aspect of the discussion that caught my attention was when Rick explored common misconceptions about Educational Technology.... The three points that stuck with me included:
Computers can replace teachers
ET = Computers + Internet + Schools

The first misconception regarding computers replacing teachers is a joke. I think that anyone who has ever taught or been in a classroom, knows that this will not happen. Anyone who believes this, is just being argumentative and silly. I'm not even going to explore this misconception, it's so ridiculous. Sorry.

The second misconception that got me thinking was the DATA = KNOWLEDGE =UNDERSTANDING= WISDOM... So if this misconception is actually believed that would make computers super smart. Or perhaps the Internet super smart, as there is access to tons of data. Or that if a person can quote lots of facts it makes them individuals who are certainly wise. Well if you have ever watched the show, "Cheers" and heard of the character, "Cliff Clavin", you would know that the ability to know many useless facts definitely does not equal wisdom. So is this really a misconception? Did I not get the whole point?? In teaching we see evidence of true understanding everyday, with our students' ability to evaluate, analyze and synthesis information... (you know all the upper levels of Bloom's Taxonomy). So this would not be a misconception held by many educators.

The third misconception that educational technology is mainly just a combination of computers, the Internet and schools, is one misconception that is not so surprising. With so much pressure on schools and divisions to increase the number of devices to students, the  argument as to what the device brand should be (Apple or Android), and whether or not we should rely on BYOT or BYOD - it seems like we kind of lose site of what effective integration is about. 

Now don't get me wrong, in order to effectively allow students to explore digital learning they need to have the hardware and the infrastructure (wifi etc) in place to make it happen. But even when classrooms have all the technology they could ever dream of, it comes down to the teacher. How is he or she going to help students use the technology? How are they going to remove themselves from the role of the "Sage on the Stage" (sorry to be cliche) highlighting the bells and whistles of technology -  to that of the facilitator guiding the student as they use digital tools to answer questions or collaborate? Divisions can't just supply the devices and expect that students will innately know what to do... or that teachers will know what to do with the students and those devices. There has to be a time for teachers to explore, take risks, collaborate and learn how to use the technology. Not to repeat something that has been stated so many times... but we need to look at the goals or outcomes for learning... then how the tools will help to achieve the outcomes. However, in order to make it happen, teachers need time. (Which is a currency always lacking in schools!)  Time to plan, time to explore and time to collaborate with other teachers. 

Educational technology is not just providing the infrastructure with devices.  It's about creating communities of individuals who look at ways of using technology to bring education further than where it has been. Without sounding too Star-Trek like ... 

Educational Technology is about boldly going where education has not gone before...

It's worth taking the risk to go boldly even if the journey might be treacherous!


  1. Great insights and arguments, Jenn! (...I think we should coin the term 'ed treknology';)!

  2. I love it!! Ed Treknology.... a nice ring!