When I finished reading, The Song Remains the Same: Looking Back to the Future of Educational Technology by Punya Mishra, Matthew J Koehler, Kristen Kereluik. TechTrends. Washington: Sep/Oct 2009. Vol. 53, Iss. 5; p. 48, for an assignment for my ECI 832 class, I couldn’t help but think this was a conversation we have all been in many times before. Why are we making little progress with technology infusion in some of our classrooms and schools? Why do some teachers seem reluctant to use the fantastic tools and resources that are so readily available to us?
It really reminded me of Karl Fisch’s post at The Fishbowl called ,”What if?” He provides a link to a google video by the same name that is worth taking a look at.
Although the article presented a concern that has been discussed for a while, it gave me a new direction of thinking as to the reason why. “the power and potential of educational technology must be acknowledged to reside within educators and not within objects.” (p.52) I couldn’t help but think that our focus my be in the wrong place.
We have this same discussion often in our school division related to new curriculum. I have heard frustrations voiced many times as to how teachers continue to start their planning with classroom activities, rather than “unpacking” the learning outcomes and starting there. It is impossible to see the journey, when we start from the end and work backwards. What do we want these children to be able to do when the journey ends, rather than… here are some things to work on and hopefully while you are doing that we will stumble on some learning.
The last conversation I with my principal, on Friday, happened to be about the lack of technology use in our classrooms and why that might be. She thinks it is a good idea when I take these courses, but it does add an extra element to her day when I am constantly wanting to share my thoughts and infuse my ideas. The one thing we said was that our teachers are separating the parts of the whole learning experience, rather than looking at it as a whole. What I mean by that is, we look at curricular outcomes separate from indicators, separate from technology, separate from classroom management etc., rather than seeing that they should all work together in the classroom experience and not be seen as separate entities.
I feel this relates to the statement in the article, “…educational technologies exist in the interplay between pedagogical knowledge, content knowledge, and technology knowledge.” Maybe this is part of our struggle…as long as things exist as separate parts, it is impossible for us to move toward an interplay of the whole learning experience.
The article describes 3 possible reasons for our lack of change. The first one being “using new technologies…requires specific knowledge of how the technology can be used for pedagogical purposes.” I feel most teachers see the basic benefits to embracing educational technologies and may also have an underlying desire to be integrating them into the daily learning experiences in their classrooms. I don’t think any teacher can deny the fact that our students today are technologically inclined and comfortable in their world. In my school division and certainly within my school the problem does not lie with technologies being unavailable to teachers. For some, the idea of technologies changing so fast is overwhelming and creates a sense of defeat before integration even gets started. The idea of learning so many new things is discouraging.
The second reason given in the article states, “the use of new technology often faces resistance from educators who believe that they perhaps do more harm than good.” The thing that immediately came to mind was the “dreaded” cell phone that I discussed in my last post. It seems to me that we can get so caught up in all the things that students could possibly do wrong, that we forget or refuse to see the benefits. I have previously stated my frustration about our need to police students, rather than create opportunities for learning. If you do a search at YouTube, under cell phone use in the classroom, you will come up with countless parodies made by students showing teachers freaking out over cell phone use. The phone is only one example, but it illustrates how our fear can be our worst enemy.
The third reason does not really have anything to do with technology. “Teachers need knowledge of pedagogy-knowledge of how to teach-in order to accomplish these kind of activities.” So does that mean that our problem does not lie with the technologies surrounding us, but rather our insecurities with our basic pedagogy?
I was reading a post written by Brian Gatin yesterday and he mentioned the need for universities to change the expectations for teacher training. The authors of the article also mention the need for pre-service teachers to not just see technology as a tool, but rather be empowered to experiment and create as they develop their own pedagogy. We tend to think younger teachers will be naturally good at technology infusion. While it may be fair to jump to the conclusion that these young teachers are comfortable using technology, is it also fair to take for granted that they will understand the interplay between content, pedagogy and technology?
This is where team work should come into play. We need to learn to share and collaborate. The article mentions, “once a project has been developed, other teachers can replicate it in their own classrooms.” That is as it should be, especially when we have all the collaboration and sharing tools available to us. I don’t think teachers are natural sharers, we can be hoarders. We need to stop trying to reinvent things in our own little worlds. Let’s use the confidence level with technology that our students and younger colleagues have and combine that with the confidence in pedagogy and content that comes from experience.
In seeing the interplay between pedagogy, technology and content can we help each other rewrite the educational song? I sure hope so!