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Posts Tagged ‘technology

My hunt for an elusive video brought me to the Singapore Ministry of Education’s Facebook page.

While I did not find what I was looking for, I found a series of images. They served as a helpful reminder of what teachers should stock up on to prepare for the new year.

What MOE teachers will use in 2017...

It was also a stark reminder of the mindset and expectations of teachers. The technologies are not current. If they were, there would be reminders to change passwords, renew VPN plans, update software, check digital archives, etc.

The call to arms was: You will be needing these and more to make a lasting impact on that one student. I get that message and stand behind it because it is a call to individualise, difficult as that will be.

I hope that teachers read this as reaching out to more than just that one student because all students are that one student. However, this task is impossible with the traditional tools and methods because they are largely about centralisation, standardisation, and control.

The newer tools are about decentralisation, individualisation, and self-regulation. This will only happen if school leaders and teachers change their mindsets and expectations about which tools to focus on and how to use them.

The old saying about technology integration was that the pedagogical horse should lead the technological cart, and not the other way around. It is about what to prioritise.

The problem with this analogy is that each can function on its own. The horse can move or be ridden independently of the cart. The cart does not need the horse (it could be decoration, just like interactive white boards).

The saying has been updated. Now some like to say that technology integration is like a driver (pedagogy) in a car (technology). This seems more current and apt unless you realise some people who say this still insist pedagogy should always lead technology.

What is the person alone? What is the car alone? Alone neither gets anywhere. They need to be integrated without one being promoted over the other in order to go on a journey and arrive at a destination.

If you use this analogy, then you must also acknowledge that technology and pedagogy go together. One is not more important than the other.

The small things matter. So do the little actions. Technology can amplify both.

The local press almost gleefully reported how a Singaporean teenager might have played her part in helping Trump win the US elections.

Hrithie Menon charged S$140 and took two hours to create a Prezi presentation that was “shared across various colleges and university campuses in the US aimed at capturing young people’s votes”.

Trump might describe her an example of a foreigner “stealing” jobs from the US.

I would describe her not as a “digital native” — that was the paper’s overused and poorly understood phrase.

Instead, I would describe her simply as efficiently and effectively using the tools available to her, just as her parents did before her, and their parents before them. The difference now is the reach and impact of the technology she had access to.

The paper listed some of her other tools: Adobe After Effects, VideoScribe, and Instagram. Though different, all the tools have one thing in common — they are tools of creation, not consumption.

While many vendors and schools still push for tools of consumption because they can be controlled and limited, learners of all ages who are unfettered outside of school have found tools of creation on their own.

For example, they learn from YouTube and they create and share on the same. When they do, they extend their reach. The audience is not automatic. The creators learn to amplify their voice, like Hrithie did when she advertised her services online.

The tools are free, the learning is meaningful, and the learner takes ownership. These are just three of many things that those behind the walls of school should learn.

There is a saying that hindsight is 20/20. People who say this mean that things look clearer once you get past them. It is easy to look back and see what you have accomplished.

It is also easy to paint a picture rosier than actually was. Our memories are more fickle than we would like to admit. One of my favourite sayings is: Nostalgia is like grammar. It makes the past perfect and the present tense.

Nostalgia is like grammar. It makes the past perfect and the present tense.

Like it or not, we forget more than remember [Decay Theory]. We Instagram-filter our memories as we snapshot them [Interference Theory].

Video source

So when ISTE2016 made this declaration, I clap and I caution.

Let us celebrate successes, but not congratulate ourselves prematurely. Things may have changed, but they are not representative of every context, even in the so-called first world.

For example, participants at ISTE were having wifi issues.

We know of teachers who are still behind or trying to get over the “how to use tech” barrier. If you conducted a study, I would wager that a significant portion of “professional development” gets stuck at technology awareness and basic training.

Singapore embarked on the ICT Masterplan 4 this year, but teachers still complain about access and connectivity. They are not just talking about technology (poor signal, blocked resources), but also about policy and practice.

I mention these not to play down the achievements of any system attempting and embracing change. It takes guts, persistence, and time for change to happen and there will always be laggards and brickbats.

But let us not give naysayers fuel for their fire.

I say we admit we have failings, address them, and learn from them. I say we not whitewash underlying problems. I say we challenge rhetoric with reality.

April is Autism Acceptance Month and this is Apple’s effort to create awareness.

Video source

I urge Apple haters to ignore their technology brand bias & focus on the message: Technology enables.

Various elements of communication like text-to-voice can be replicated on most computing platforms. This provides our seemingly less-abled brethren some equity.

If you think about it, we all have special needs as learners and technology enables learning for all of us.

We have far too many things to remember and our phones do that for us and remind us. 

We are spatially-challenged and those same phones tell us where to go.

We have many things to think about and we can offload calculations and permutations (what computing devices do best) while we intuit and make decisions (what humans do better, for now).

Technology enables. But only in the hands of all learners. If teachers cannot see that, they must first unlearn how they were taught, relearn what it feels like to learn, and learn how to transfer everyday use of technology to the classroom.

Learning how to integrate technology effectively is not easy. When more informed people try to describe to less informed people what technology integration might look like, the former tend to use analogies.

There used to be the warning not to put the technological cart before the pedagogical horse. This soon got replaced by the car model of pedagogical driver and technological accelerator. The problem with this newer model is that pedagogy and technology are kept too separate.

What teachers and educators of teachers need to realise is that the two are integrated with each other as well as other components.

One of the better models of technology integration is TPACK. Effective technology integration lies at the nexus of technology, pedagogy, and content, and when all three are embedded in authentic contexts.

But even this model has been critiqued as inadequate. For example, there is a more learning-focused model (PDF).

The cart and car models rely on current thinking. TPACK and its variants are more conceptual and highlight important elements, but they are not as easy to relate to as analogies.

I offer a different analogy to challenge old assumptions. We should be thinking about technology integration like augmented humans, i.e., cyborgs. I do not mean the dystopian or fantasy-driven cyborgs that destroy the human race. I mean the cyborgs that we already are or are becoming.

We already rely on our phones to remember phone numbers, schedules, and a host of other details. We have augmented our memories. We are not 100% human if we have devices to pump or clean our blood, strengthen a limb, replace a limb, help us see, help us hear, help us speak, etc.

We actually think of ourselves as less human or even not human (suffering or dead) if we do not have these technologies to aid or enable us to do what is human.

Technology integration is like a cyborg. The technology alone or the pedagogy alone is useless without the other. These are also pointless without the other constituent parts like content, context, and connections.

Development in any one of these areas can push the other parts. If we are honest, the technological component is often what drives and pushes for change. Who is to say that pedagogy should reign the technology in just because an older model says so?

The cyborg model of technology integration in schools and educational contexts is itself an integration of important moving and enabling parts. There are factors teaching, learner, learning, content, contextual, connective, and technological. One is not more important than another. To remove or ignore one is to create a Frankenstein’s monster.

Edublogs that tout cool new tools for the classroom are common. Those that take a critical look at them or marry technology with pedagogy and research are less so.

I am not about to put edtech blogs down because they provide a valuable service to educators. But if they are treated merely like awareness ads with no warning labels or examples of critical use, they could be more harmful than not using the cool tool.

If technology must be viewed as a tool, then such tools should be employed because you need them and know how to use them, not because they are new and seem cool.

You would not put a buzzsaw in the hands of a novice without some training. You could, but you run the risk of injury.

Likewise you could let Twitter lose in a classroom without good professional development (PD). By PD I do not mean only officially-sanctioned and organised sessions. I include bootcamps, unconferences, and personal learning networks (PLNs).

Good PD would warn teachers of the worst ways to use a new tool. For example:

  • Using a tool because it seems cool
  • Doing something old in a seemingly new way
  • Merely enhancing the learning instead of enabling it
  • Using a tool only for what it can do technically, not what you need it to do pedagogically

Longer term PD of the PLN sort might show teachers how to think outside the tool box and to learn to integrate technology as instruments. With this mindset, technology is not simply reached for and put away. It is practiced with regularly, grown with or into, and treasured as a lifestyle.

An educator skilled with instruments is clear to see. He or she gets more mileage out of a technology instead of flitting from one new tool to another. The skill and passion of use become obvious, and the educator does not simply play the same tune over and over again.

Simply put, an educator with technology instruments is no technology tool’s fool.

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