It really is about the technology and . . .
It is not about the technology.
I have developed a sour taste for this common and almost automatic “battle cry” from the educational technology community. If we view learning as a process that is integrated, holistic, and systemic, then of course it is about the technology . . . and the pedagogy . . . and the learners . . . and the available resources . . . and the community. It is not about one thing before the other, one thing over another. It is about the whole picture. It goes from being a reductionist view of technology integration to one that holistic, taking into account all the elements, and how they influence and are influenced by one another.
I am teaching an online Integrating Technology Into the Curriculum course for a Masters of Education fully online program. This is the only technology course they have during their Masters work (and it is an elective). It is an eight week course and one that has been designed by the university’s course designers. Most of the students come into the course with knowledge of Microsoft products – Word, Powerpoint, Spreadsheets and hardware such as overhead projectors (yes, they still reference this), DVDs, and Elmos.
Most of the students’ suggestions for integrating technology into their curriculum include examples using these tools they know. Here are example recommendations from one of the “better” students from his technology improvement plan:
Computers would make a nice addition to each classroom for use by students. Software such as Microsoft should be installed on each computer so students can explore with Spreadsheets, word, and database. In addition, with computers the school should install the internet on them so students may use it to search for topics of interests and study as well as thousands of other things.
They know their learners, their schools, their content areas, and only the technologies I described. But most of their technology integration ideas pretty much contain these old school technologies.
I make suggestions about how to enhance their curriculum using more current technologies – Google docs and apps, social networking, Blogs, wikis, Skype, Twitter, TeacherTube – but few “take me up” on these offerings. An emphasis here – they are Masters of Education students in an Educational Leadership program.
This fits with the cliché of “If all one knows is a hammer, then everything is viewed as a nail.” The same tenet applies to educational technology integration, “If all the educator knows is Word and PPT, then all technology-integrated learning experiences will be viewed through the lens of a Powerpoint.”
The benefits of educators knowing a full range of emerging, educational-relevant technologies include:
- Content and process can be presented to the learners using a variety of modalities – visual, auditory, interactive. Use of multiple modalities has the potential to make the content more interesting and more relevant to a broad range of learners.
- Instructional could be differentiated to meet each student’s needs. The more tools an educator knows, the more likely s/he can offer the right technology to address that student’s learning style and interest areas.
- Teachable Moments are enhanced. When learners bring up ideas or questions, the educator has a larger back pocket of options, knowledge of internet resources upon which to draw to address that teachable moment.
It then becomes the responsibility for educators to understand the current technologies being used by society-at-large. What that means in actual practice is:
- Keeping informed of how emerging technologies are being integrated into the educational landscape by other educators, librarians, instructional technology specialists, and administrators. This is where social networks such of Twitter come in handy.
- Getting to know and understand the tools through webinars often offered by the tool administrators/developers and online tutorials.
- Understanding the user agreements and privacy issues associated with the tools being used by society-at-large.
If education is serious about preparing learners for their real lives – current and future, then it becomes an ethical imperative to bring relevant, current, and emerging technologies into the learning environment.