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Posts Tagged ‘technology integration

This is a rant.

Background: Every semester we will get feedback from student teachers that they don’t learn enough technology from our ICT course even though tutors emphasize that the course is about technology-mediated pedagogy instead. Every semester tutors will say they have no time to pack these tools or TELs (technology enabled learning) into an already packed curriculum. Every semester I urge tutors not to think linearly.

My stance is this: We should not limit ourselves to our capacity to teach; we should exploit our student teachers’ capacity to learn. We do this by giving them as many opportunities to share and teach (they are training to be teachers after all) and by embedding the content in the social process, the technology and the pedagogy.

As of last Friday, we are just two sessions into the ICT course. My class is sharing a wiki, they have signed up for blogs (they have selected Posterous and Blogspot), and they have interacted with MindMeister, Voki, Slideshare, embedded YouTube videos, LinoIt and ProProf Quiz. We use this to write, reflect, brainstorm, listen, read, watch, record, assess, etc.

If they read my blog and decide to monitor it by RSS, you can add another tool to the list. If they choose to join me as I bookmark socially with delicious, add yet another tool to the list. I am sure that they are already on Facebook, but we haven’t taken advantage of that educationally. Yet.

Is anyone who plays the numbers game keeping count? I’m not because these are natural or new extensions of how we should be teaching and learning. If teachers-to-be don’t know what the current digital tools are or how to use them, it is pointless to harp on technology-mediated pedagogy. Or worse, they limit themselves to what they already know (e.g., PowerPoint and possibly “interactive” white boards) and the associated pedagogy of didactic delivery.

So how might teacher educators try to address the issues of dynamic content, rapid tool evolution and progressive pedagogy?

  1. Be a deep user of the tools yourself. Skills learnt from one tool often transfer to another.
  2. Select tools that are intuitive to use. Most are and your “intuition” grows with frequent use.
  3. Embed them in meaningful learning (not teaching) activities. The tool should fade into the background.
  4. If you must design teaching activities, get your student teachers to teach one another. They learn much more that way.
  5. Strategically rise above the activities and discuss with your audience how you integrated the technology in the activities, warts and all.

Ah, that was cathartic!

That is a phrase that jumped out at me as I read a blog entry on how a school had implemented e-portfolios. It had a plan for doing this from kindergarten to 12th grade.

The description for 7th grade was:

Since all students and teachers have 1 to 1 laptops, that raises the bar as to what can be expected. The 7th Grade is in a domain, but the expectation is working toward paperless classrooms. The best way to understand how this works is to see it in action. The classes in our district that have embraced it fully are so fun to watch. The best part, the students have no idea that it could be different. “Of course we hand in work this way Mr. Kelley, how else would you do it?” Reminds me of the saying, “How do you explain water to a fish?”

The water is transparent to the fish. The technology is transparent to the kids. When technology is well integrated, that is the way it shoud be.

[image source, used under CC licence]

In reviewing the work of Howard Rheingold and Neil Postman, this blogger mentions six questions educators might consider when bringing technology into lessons.

I am led by two main questions, neither of which is on the list.

1. What technologies are students already using and how can we leverage on them?

2. How might the technologies help them now and in the future?

Video source

This tongue-in-cheek video is a look at technology use in the higher ed classroom and done in the style of the US version of The Office. Ah, the disconnect between technology and pedagogy!

I’d classify this as Comedy and “Horror”; it’s funny and “scary” at the same time! But it also offers lots of good takeaways, particularly when the students suggest to the instructor what they might do (from the 4min 39sec mark).

I think that they all had good suggestions, except for one: Making use of BlackBoard. If they want to get more involved by getting into the modes of creating and critiquing, they could use Web 2.0 tools like wikis, VoiceThread, MixedInk, MindMeister, Google Apps, Twitter, Facebook, etc.

Clay Burell’s blog entry On Using Technology Without Understanding It is a longish read, but I think he makes a point.

I was more interested in what led up to him saying this about getting teachers to use technology:

I’ve been in this world long enough to believe that we can’t push the reluctant to use it, and that that’s a fool’s errand. The best we can do is “pull”…. But even that word is wrong, since it still requires more energy than is sustainable for teachers. Now I believe the best we can do is simply attract.

That is an interesting perspective. I think that it’s realistic as well based on my own experiences with teacher trainees.

But a magnet can only attract so much and some are more magnetic than others. I’ll definitely strive to be a stronger magnet!

That said, I know that if I simply lead and not look back, others might not follow! So I will continue to push and pull as well. After all, there are several leverage points when implementing change and there is no harm in knowing which ones to fiddle with judiciously.

It’s been a year since I first heard of Abilene Christian University (ACU) providing iPhones or iPod Touches for students. The link to the Chronicle article in my blog entry then seems to be broken now, but ACU still has the information up on its Website.

The Chronicle and Wired have revisited the programme at ACU. The Chronicle called it “an academic success” and both articles provided examples of how the mobile devices were used.

I liked how one professor asked his students to look for information “on the fly” (meaning “in real time”, not the insect!) and then discuss what they found. I think that it reflects how we learn and need to learn nowadays.

I was less fond of the idea of posing questions in PowerPoint and getting students to poll their answers anonymously. Yes, most students don’t speak up, but they will be active on the poll. I can attest to this with my own trainee teachers: Only a few participate during class discussions (this is after a deafening period of silence), but all will clickity-clack on keyboards as they contribute to shared documents, polls, mindmaps, etc.

The first approach integrated technology more effectively. It was an attempt to cover content dynamically and model/teach thinking skills. It also presented opportunities for students to learn how to articulate, debate and evaluate. The second approach was interactive but it kept learners in their shells. They certainly expressed themselves, but they did not move much outside their comfort zones.

I am all for learning starting with what students are first comfortable with. But we often learn most when we are put in a tight spot and have to make the effort to get out of it. Technology should be a means to an end, but the end should not be to build a tighter shell.

I found this Vimeo video from a ReadWriteWeb article, You Can’t Squeeze Knowledge From a Pixel.

Video source

It has little to do with education. However, it reminded me of something I try to emphasize in the ICT course that I facilitate and am now harping on in the EdPsyII course. What makes learning meaningful is context, not isolation.

I think that teachers or curriculum planners often remove context and complexity from a problem because they think that learners cannot handle the cognitive load. As a result, the problem is simplified into what seems like more manageable chunks, but it is devoid of context. Another result is that the issues that contribute to that problem get compartmentalized and isolated from one another.

For example, the complex skill of integrating technology in education might require content knowledge, technology skills and pedagogical approaches to be blended into a coherent whole. But we tend to teach these separately because each component is so complex.

I think doing this is acceptable as long as learners get to synthesize in context. So instead of simply asking my trainees to plan for technology integration (and thus show me head knowledge), I ask them to actually teach that topic via a demonstration. I also get them to sell their ideas via a walkabout format of presentation. They are teachers after all and designing, implementing, reflecting and strategizing is their context.

In new version of the EdPsychII course that I facilitate, I notice the broad topics of classroom management and inclusiveness again broken down into parts. There is the potential the pieces to remain disjointed.

To counter that, I am requiring all five of my classes to choose a subtopic and start writing about them from the first week of class. They will not only gain expertise in one area and teach their peers about their topic, they will also be able to critically examine a particular week’s topic from their lens. (We are using a Google wiki and Google Docs to do this.)

For example, classroom rules and routines are normally an individual teacher’s domain. However, they could also think about how their individual biases (personal pedagogies) and how school or cultural norms (collaboration and support) shape what they how they do this.

Facilitating this process is not easy. Learning this way is not easy either. But I think this approach will promote both creative and critical thinking. I also think that my trainees will be better teachers as they will think and act more collaboratively and systemically rather than individually.

But that is only what I think. The next few weeks are about putting these principles into play. Let the fun begin!

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