“Why should we have computer labs anymore in schools?” The question had been put to me by a dear colleague. We were in my supervisor’s meeting room. While I carefully considered the question, I felt a profound sadness at my agreement with the suggestion he was making. The sadness results because, frankly, we should be much further along this road of implementing the suggestion than we are, as a Nation of educators and learners.
His question suggested something that should be obvious in schools, but continues to elude those of us who work in Texas public schools–the complete blending of technology into classroom curriculum to the point that technology is no longer a special event. Simply, why does technology continue to be ignored when curriculum initiatives are implemented at the district, campus and classroom level?
“Why aren’t these empanadas all that spicy?” I put the question to my daughter and her friend earlier this week, at mid-point of her empanada-making. This past holiday week, my daughter has been making Panamanian empanadas. Since she is still a novice empanada maker (or was at the start of the process), she didn’t realize that she needed to mix the picante sauce in with the meat while it was being prepared. Adding it afterward resulted in empanadas that lacked sufficient spice to make them palatable.
As Dr. Chris Moersch (creator of the Levels of Teaching Innovation (LOTI)) points out, blending technology into curriculum typically fails because technology–the spice–is left out of the cooking process, as this article on the “What Didn’t Happen in Edtech in 2013“ highlights. This results in a product that fails to engage. Of course, Moersch says it in this way:
The first problem is that since none of these models/initiatives individually address technology use in the classroom, it is not surprising that when the innovation is fully implemented technology is often missing from the equation.
The second problem is more systemic; since technology is not modeled as part of the implementation process, educators as well as district and building administrators often perceive technology as a separated curriculum or initiative by itself, and therefore, not an integral part of the innovation’s implementation.
When technology is missing from the equation, both during preparation of an initiative (e.g. Writing Workshop, Problem-based Learning, whatever), then later when it is shared, adding technology after the fact results in a waste of money. Efforts like mass inclusion of tablets, Bring Your Own Device, Chromebooks fail, not because the devices themselves are insufficient or inadequate to the task, but because they are add-ons to the original recipe…and they were never meant to be included.
In Inequity and BYOD, George Couros makes the following points that I’d like to consider:
…we need to rethink the practices that we already have in our schools to provide for them. For example, many schools have “computer labs” where we take kids once or twice a week, to do something with technology or allow them to type out an essay for us. This is not a good use of technology anymore and we should know better now. Technology should be at the point of instruction and be as accessible in learning as a pencil; it shouldn’t be an event. How many pencil labs do you have in your school?
GOOD VS WHAT WORKS
- High-stakes testing remains as the single-most support of organizing technology in computer labs. Since the exorbitant cost of equipment prevents creating one to one environments in public school districts (e.g. New Tech High Schools have done so, but how often have those funding initiatives been able to maintain and expand the program to a larger district) prevent granting every student a “testing-approved device,” then the computer lab is the best way to achieve this.
- State-wide instructional programs (e.g. Texas Success) depend on equitable access, and minimum device specifications. Programs like iStation, Think Through Math, as well as other tutorial software, are inflicted on public school systems who must spend their “treasure” to develop “public service workstations” that will enable use of these state-wide initiatives. iPads, Chromebooks are NOT supported.
- Classroom teachers have no idea how to blend technology into instruction while they are preparing it and technology remains an add-on, an after-thought.
- District level staff development haven’t a clue how to prepare curriculum initiatives that blend technology into pedagogy, as well as andragogy.
Whilst personalized learning may happen in traditional learning contexts such as schools and colleges, it embraces learning that happens anywhere, for example in the home, in the community – anywhere. Personalized learning can happen in partnership with other learners, for example learners working together in a group to study a particular topic. This ‘anywhere, anytime, anyplace’ learning can be seen in light of the forces of globalization that are influencing this latest trend in education, where time, space and place are experienced as compressed; a death of distance.
Once the possibility exists for students to study informally, at online (and offline) schools, compiling their own learning playlist, putting together units of study that appeal to their passions, the one-size-fits-all model of high school will appear alarmingly anachronistic. So, if educators want to keep their students engaged and inside their buildings, they have to look at the way they learn outside, and bring those characteristics inside. Source: MindShift, What’s Our Vision for the Future of Learning?
|Animals can work together…so can edtech and curriculum.|
Here is an argument I am hearing a lot:
Some low end device like a Chromebook (formerly netbook, formerly thin clients, formerly OLPC laptop, formerly Linux/Unix refurbs, formerly whatever cheap ass piece of technology de jour was being thrust upon education…) is good for students because it provides XX% of the technology experience that the “real devices” does. This is especially true for students that have NO technology. Hey kid, be glad for what you get, because anything is better than nothing.
Frankly, that is a terrible argument and it is demeaning not only to the students that are in low SES and their tax paying parents, but to education as well.
“Pluralism” and “diversity” are sometimes used as if they were synonymous, but diversity—splendid, colorful, and perhaps threatening—is not pluralism. Pluralism is the engagement that creates a common society from all that diversity. (Source)
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