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Relative Advantage of Technology Integration

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My educational beginnings were in the field of experiential education – adventure ropes courses, new games, team building initiatives.  These activities are highly engaging, fun, and often adrenaline producing.  As such, some facilitators use them to produce these results but did not engage in the foresight to determine which activities were best for the specific participants to create transferable changes in thoughts, knowledge, and/or behavior.  The focus through training organizations such as Project Adventure and the Association of Experiential Education become on not just teaching facilitators about the adventure activities themselves but also how to select, implement, and process these experiential activities.

Technology also can be fun, engaging, and has a seductive quality.  Some educators are using new technologies as the experiential educators used the adventure games – as a cool thing to do in the learning environment.  They are not being intentional about the underlying pedagogy and desired educational outcomes.   It has almost become like a technology flavor of the month:  one month it is Interactive Whiteboards, another tablets, and yet another it is online videos like Khan Academy.

I teach a course on integrating technology into the curriculum for the Boise State University’s graduate Educational Technology program.  As part of the course, students are expected to write weekly blog posts, many of weekly themes are related to the relative advantage of using particular technologies or related strategies in a learning setting.  Relative advantage is defined as:

In order to succeed, an innovation has to be perceived as offering advantages relative to existing comparable products or services (http://openlearn.open.ac.uk/mod/oucontent/view.php?id=397861&section=16.2.1)

In other words, they are asked to discuss how certain technologies, applications, and strategies would improve current practices.  Example relative advantage posts from one of the course students:

Exploring relative advantages of the technologies is often the highlight of the course for many of the students.  This week was the Spring semester student’s final course reflection.  Here are some of their comments regarding the value they found in determining relative advantage.

Professionally, I have grown tremendously because of this course.  I think my mantra at school to other teachers is “Do not use technology for technology sake!  Do it because you have a purpose!”  I think that is the biggest lesson I have learned from this class.  This may not be the first class that has emphasized this point but it is the first class that has taught me how to use it AND have a purpose.  I get so excited when I able to motivate my students with technology that I have learned in this class. Tanya

Another important concept for me has been relative advantage. As one who loves technology, I often jump right in as a parent or in casual teaching environments just because I can. I have learned to determine the relative advantage of such tools, and to use and implement them wisely–not just because they are available. This has been a profound lesson for me and one that has already shaped my current efforts. Gretel

Considering the relative advantage of integration strategies I have found especially valuable. Using this approach with my own work and sharing the value of considering why you use technology in a given educational setting validates the process. Barry

I guess the other real change that I can say I see at this point is I have a renewed willingness to try new things.  I think we all have a tendency to stay within our comfort zone and to be honest its easier.  Stepping outside the box and altering our approach, even if we are confident in ability takes extra effort, a little courage, and an understanding that failure might be an option.  It is that failure though, that gives us a better chance the second time around for success. Jill

This is such a valuable exercise when considering technology integration – one I believe any teacher or staff at an educational institution could benefit from when considering integrating any new technology.

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Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

May 7, 2012 at 2:05 am

2 Responses

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  1. Can you please quantify the advantages of using technology in a flipped classroom approach versus the traditional approaches? I am finding it easy to find qualitative comparisons but have found it difficult to find any quantitative data on the subject…. thanks.

    Rick Kepple

    July 2, 2012 at 5:25 pm

    • Hi, Rick, I am not big on quantitative data being an qualitative “researcher” but I know there are some studies that are showing that the flipped classroom is increasing test scores.

      Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

      July 2, 2012 at 8:46 pm


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