We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us.
– Marshall McLuhan
The word technology always seems to relate to electronics as this is how our world tends to understand it. We rely on its functioning to allow us to organize, perform, problem solve, compile, create, and present information to those that request or require it with or without human involvement. However, technology itself has many definitions:
- science or knowledge put into practical use to solve problems or invent useful tools. (yourdictionary.com)
- the sum of the ways in which social groups provide themselves with the material objects of their civilization (dictionary.com)
Education technology can be defined as:
- the combined use of computer hardware, software, and educational theory and practice to facilitate learning.
- creating, using, and managing technological processes and educational resources to help improve user academic performance. (Wikipedia)
- the development and application of tools (including software, hardware, and processes) intended to promote education
- a study and ethical practice for facilitating learning and improving performance by creating, using, and managing appropriate technological processes and resources.” (General Assembly)
From these definitions, I have gleaned my own interpretation of educational technology from the word cloud above:
Practical and ethical scientific processes, resources, and tools based on societal knowledge and values that promote and enhance academic performance through the creation and application of both (computer) hardware and software.
As I try to understand how EdTech has impacted my educational endeavours, both as a student and teacher, I am reminded of not only how old I am, but how much has changed. As Tarina and Joceyln reflected, I too remember the TV/VCR cart being an exciting part of my elementary years. The overhead projector was “exciting” as well as it allowed my Grade 7 teacher a never-ending spool of transparency paper to write continuous notes so that he wasn’t restricted to limited chalkboard space. However, as I reflect, most of the educational technology tools that I remember from my early educational years were used more by the teacher than the students.
In high school, I took classes that focused on using specific technologies such as a typewriter (yes, Lisa, I too took a typing class in grade 9) and information process, which essential was how to uses the tools on a computer such a word processing and formatting. Nowadays, we assume students already have these skills and unfortunately, we are usually wrong. Are these not essential skills to have in order to effectively use programs that are meant to improve our efficiency? I’ll come back to this point.
In my undergrad, I spent a couple of classes in one course that focused on writing on a chalkboard and whiteboard in addition to learning how to operate and use an overhead projector. Not only that, but I was also introduced to the idea of educational technology when I took ECMP 355 with the one and only Alec Couros, in which I was introduced to the wonderful world of HyperStudio and other technologically advanced tools. Wait, it gets better.
My first teaching job plopped me right into the role of “computer” teacher for which I educated grades 7, 8, and 9 students on how to Boolean search online and how to use Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint tools effectively. Then I fell in love with using a document camera and using a Smart Board (although not as effectively as I could have) to make materials more accessible to students as I taught. Once again, tools that I used, not students.
Now, we have opportunities to use technology on a more regular basis with individual students with initiatives such as Connected Educators through the Cathlotic System. Although I don’t teach in this system, this is something that I wish Regina Public would offer as I hear about the wonderful things that some Connected Educators, lots within our current class, are doing. I would love to be able to learn from any of you if you’re willing to share some things that you’ve had huge success with.
From my LRT lens, the technology that I immerse myself with is assistive technology. This is sometimes thrown at students with the mindset that it will fix their problems. Unfortunately, there is a process of incorporating this technology with the understanding that there could be some failures before successes are made. There needs to be specific training with individual students, wait….individual teachers as well, before these tools can be deemed effective or else we are setting everyone up for frustration and failure. Essentially, I like to ask:
- What is the purpose of this technology (substitute, augment, modify, or redefine)?
- How is this technology going to improve or enhance the students’ academic performance?
- How do we effectively incorporate this technology into the classroom environment for this student?
- What tasks will this technology be used for?
- How will we know if a student is successful with this technology?
It’s imperative that collaboration is at the forefront for technology integration or else more time will be spent on troubleshooting. I speak from a recent experience when our school received iPads from the division for specific students. They arrived without the requested application (Clicker Writer) installed, and even so, no one has been given any PD on the app itself that we are expecting students and teachers to use in class. This goes back to Meira and Shelby‘s point about PD support. Some students are assigned or given tech to use but not always taught how to use it effectively, especially those that struggle with traditional ways of demonstrating learning. We need to provide them specific instruction, allow them to practice in isolation, and then slowly integrate them into the classroom with it so that they can gain independence in not only the academic task but the technological task as well.
Technology is always changing and advancing, which means educational technology is always changing and advancing. We need to ensure that there is a purpose to its usage, proper training is employed so that it can be used to its full capacity, and we reflect and re-evaluate continuously so that we are gaining from it rather than unknowingly neglected some of the disadvantages that may be impeding overall progress and development.
“First we build the tools, then they build us.”