Practical Theory - The Origin
The Scholars in CyberEnglish
ToDaY's MeNu - Ted

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Technology Counts, reviewed

When I began using technology in my classroom in the mid 80's, I came to realize the power of the new technology as a potential publishing tool, similar to the tool the information power brokers of the world used. Then came the World Wide Web and BANG, all of us were publishers. That required a new order for teaching. Classroom publishing became a reality and allowed the classroom teacher to do what school newspapers and yearbooks were doing, publish their scholars' work. This month sees an important publication, Classroom Publishing, a book that describes, outlines, and provides examples of classroom publishing being done in classrooms across the country. It is more than serendipitous that this book is released at the same time the US Department of Education released a new Technology Plan and ED Week published its annual Technology Counts. Publishing is what scholars do and I hope our educational leaders take this power of technology more seriously and do more with the technology than is now seen and even forecast.

Education Week has recently released its latest issue of Technology Counts. The opening editorial salvo outlines the major stumbling block in "Powering Up Change." There are many problems inherent in our current push to use technology in schools. Going mobile and using the more advanced tools seems to be the latest wave pushed either by the geeks or the manufacturers, while too many of the teachers are barely able to use email and are being left further behind. Why push and limit ourselves to "mobile." They are an elite technology. The articles in this issue bear this out. Why not start with technology which hasn't found its way into our schools to any level of how it is used in other areas of our lives. I'd suggest we keep it simple. I don't see the mention of webpages, but I see wikis, which are a real bad idea in education cause they don't work for classwork and blogs which are very limited. I say webpages because we use webpages every day. We should have our scholars make webpages. Then, maybe, these other tools can augment our webpages. It is suggested that these mobile devices are accessories. We don't even have the main wardrobe under any kind of control. We aren't ready to accessorize and this is not a place to start. Once again we have skipped over the basics and have widened the technology gulf between the geeks and the neophytes. No wonder education is floundering in the use of technology, it lacks pedagogy. How many teachers have their own webpage that provides everything their scholars need in their class? Not enough to make the leap to "mobile." Most teachers don't know how to use the basic technology in their classrooms. Everyone knows how to use webpages in their work except teachers, so let's start there before we explore "mobile." The biggest problem is stated near the end of the essay, "'Right now, we’re just focusing on what’s easy, what can be developed quickly, because it’s going to take a lot of trial and error to figure out what is the best practice for doing this,' says Joy Smith, the chief development officer for the Florida Virtual School, the largest state-sponsored online school." Obviously she hasn't considered webpage development. We need to understand why we want to use the technology, how to use it, and what we hope to get out of it. How are we going to make us more productive? Produce is the key and creating webpages is the how. Why? So we have a record of it, it is public, we can engage in peer review , and because it becomes the foundation for all the other technologies. Technology has to be more than multiple choice tests, flashcards, and polling. Come on folks, think outside the box.

Now the other real problem is what we call research. This is a bogus argument. There is no way we will get the research we need if we won't use technology in our schools which won't happen until the research informs us. We are like the dog chasing its tail. Another useful metaphor would be our first job. We can't get that job because we need experience, but we can't get experience unless someone hires us. The vicious circle or more affectionately called "Catch 22." Forget the research for a moment and look around you. The President of the United States is not the first politician to use technology in such a way as to get elected. We have seen very tech savvy campaigns run by the unlikeliest of candidates get elected to office because of their tech savviness. Consider how all professions now use technology to function. When we have natural disasters or other events around the world technology is how we communicate and get the information we need to react and act. Technology is the difference in all parts of our lives from getting tickets to an event, buying products online, communicating with everyone, and gleaning information before we visit the doctor. When we need information we "google" it. Come on folks, if we wait for the research we will never get it done in education as it is done in other parts of our lives. We know it works because we can't exist without it in our lives. What more research do we need? We need to learn how to use in our classrooms. Heck, we are hard pressed to see technology used well in these colleges that will do the research.

"Mobile" technology still is a consumer activity and does not create a producer environment as does making webpages to display the work of our scholars. The best place to do this is on the computer, be it desktop or laptop. Making technology accessories the key in education suggests we have a better handle on technology. We don't. Too few schools and far too few teachers use technology in their everyday work as compared to how they use technology away from their work. It is quite obvious we aren't getting anywhere with technology in education because we aren't thinking correctly as geeks or as teachers. We should be thinking as the Cybrarian.

I hope we get serious about technology in schools because the current trend is going in the wrong direction. We have to get beyond thinking of technology as a toy, a gimmick, an accessory. It is a very serious tool not being taken very seriously by the very people who have the most to gain. The key to improving education is by using technology correctly and that means by publishing our scholars' work and our work, then we can consider accessorizing. One last important use of the web not mentioned or rarely used or spoken about is the WebQuest, which would also be a great way to help develop a set of national standards. Technology is used badly in our schools and this report only highlights our shortcomings and dark future.

No comments: