Christy Tucker at Experiencing E-Learning has put into words what I’ve been thinking – and practicing – in my work promoting and supporting the use of educational technology to enhance learning at my Institute:
To reach those who are more resistant, in education or elsewhere, I think a focus on what can be done with the technology will ultimately be more effective than focusing just on the technology.
This statement resonates resoundingly with my thoughts on the work of educational technologists who support the work of teachers and trainers. By first demonstrating the application of technology, and providing a clear picture of the goal – how it might improve teaching and learning – we can help educators to better understand why they might want to become more proficient with educational technology tools, even before they start grappling with them.
Furthermore, by demonstrating teaching and learning support processes seperate from the technology, we help bring about a paradigm change in the way technology in education is treated. Many teachers still regard technology as a special tack-on to the “other stuff” they might do in a standard classroom, when really, technology should be as transparent and integrated into education as it is in other aspects of our students’ lives. Christy Tucker cites Chris Lehman, principal at the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, quoted in this post on Teaching Tech Literacy to the MySpace Generation:
“We need to get away from the notion that computers are something we go use in a lab once a week. When was the last time we sent kids to a pencil lab?”
In this statement, Chris Lehman infers that technology only provides the tools of learning, and (particularly for our increasingly technology-literate students) using these tools can be as transparent as picking up a pencil. Therefore, what we should focus on in developing our staff and students is how to use these tools to achieve outcomes or goals. From the same article, this quote from David DeBarr, instructional technology coordinator for the Scottsdale Unified School District in Scottsdale, Arizona:
“Our approach is not to teach technology. Our approach is to teach it as a goal. It becomes infused in every classroom and becomes part of life. It happens naturally.”
This way of looking at technology in education has useful applications in how we support teaching and learning. Even in mobile learning, the focus should not be on the technology, but on the learning; handheld devices merely provide a ubiquitous “swiss army knife” of useful tools that a learner can use to accomplish useful goals such as research and reflection. Indeed, no other technologies are more personal, pervasive and interwoven into the fabric of our learners’ lives than mobile technologies, which strongly suggests one of their natural roles as educational tools: supporting informal and lifelong learning.
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