Teachers and technologyEdit
The learning environment is constantly changing and the tools and methods incorporated continue to grow and change. Technology is an interesting term in that viewed from a contemporary context it seems somewhat easily defined. But if we think carefully we find that amount of change that takes place is extraordinary and the speed at which this change takes place is accelerating rapidly.
If we think of the not so distant past, technology in the classroom could refer simply to the use of books. A few decades ago the technology for document preparation moved to electric typewriters from manual machines. In a short time span we have seen the advent of personal computers, which quickly moved from professional environment to the educational environment. While we have seen initial domination of Apple computers in educational environments, a multiplicity of vendors and technologies can now be found and the conceptualization of ?computer? as technology is quickly disappearing. So, how do we define technology today?
A view of technologyEdit
As we move through the year 2009 we find that not only is it difficult to define a single hardware and software environment, it is also difficult to pin down location. The physical devices being used still incorporate a familiar computer framework. PC?s using familiar operating systems such as Windows and Mac OS X are commonplace. Network technologies allow not only for the interconnection within the educational environment, but also to the rest of the world through the Internet. This system of interconnected networks allows communication through its most popular form: The World Wide Web. This communications protocol allows text, graphics, audio and video to be exchanged between multiple platforms and for many years has been an environment that students could benefit from being on the receiving end of information. As new tools emerge, this is rapidly changing.
It is difficult to exactly define what web 2.0 means because the definition is hotly debated. What can be said about this environment is that, in general, it represents an environment on the World Wide Web that changes how we interact with data and with each other. A few examples of these tools include video sharing and audio/video interactivity such as Skype, social networking (Facebook), Google products including maps/streetview, docs, and soon Wave. It remains to be seen how some of these new changes will effect how we interact with this technological environment. While we are used to having access to our working environment locally there is a growing move toward ?cloud? computing. Google is pushing this and hopes to push this technology with Wave and Chrome OS. The changes that we see in the Web 2.0 environment do not necessary represent change in hardware infrastructure, rather the software systems running on these hardware systems.
Smart devices and moreEdit
Other means of technology that are becoming commonplace include smart devices or smart phones. At this point in time it makes no sense to refer to a smart device simply as a cell phone. These devices are capable of making phone calls certainly, but they also have the capacity to navigate the Web, run calculators, maintain multiple clocks with alarm notices, play music and send text messages. Not only can you take photos and video, but you can then post them directly to social networking sites instantly as well as send and receive email. Many new devices can make their way into the learning environment such as iPods, digital cameras, video, podcasting, and Skype. Blogging is a platform where individuals can not only create an online journal or log, but it also creates opportunities for others to respond. This can be its own form of educational interaction and provide feedback to ideas such as using technology by teachers in an academic setting.These should be consider freeing to the development of the learning environment not frightening or overwhelming.
One of the keys to the successful implementation of technology in the classroom is a careful plan for professional development. Installation of new equipment and leaving the teacher to figure out how it works and how it applies pedagogically is a recipe for disaster.
In order to make any technology implementation a successful experience there are five critical element that must be considered. Time, training and development, teacher involvement, access to the equipment, and ongoing support (Brown, 2004).
Teachers must be afforded the time to actively experiment with the technology they are going to be working with in the classroom. This time allows them to play with their curriculum and see how the new tools work. It provides for opportunities to make mistakes and work their way out of them. It gives them the confidence to understand the tools so that they can concentrate on best classroom practice with the support of the technology rather than focusing on hoping to make the technology work under pressure.
Training and developmentEdit
Training and development should be designed to support the specific needs of the teachers. The tools they are going to use in the classroom should be specifically addressed and the timing of the training and development should coincide with actual practice. Providing professional development in for a teacher in June for programs that will be installed the following September does no good at all.
In order to make the professional development a meaningful experience it is imperative that the design comes from a collaboration between the technology coordinator and the teachers. Professional development must directly relate to the technologies that teacher will use and in the form necessary that will support the educative process. It cannot be designed isolation and cannot be a ?canned? system intended for a ?one size fits all? environment. All too often professional development is designed around large groups with basic step-by-step delivery systems that provide little more to the teachers that when they first entered the session. In some instance, teachers are not even place in front to the technology they are expected to use but are instead give presentation hand outs and expected to translate this into a meaningful learning experience.
Access to equipmentEdit
When teachers have participated in some form of professional development it is necessary to get them directly involved with the new technology immediately. This required that careful planning has been taking place with the technology coordinators so that equipment isn?t lying around waiting for professional development to take place, or that teachers are left for months without the new technology following professional development. They will need immediate access so they can begin the process of active experimentation and implementation in their classes.
It is through the process of active use and experimentation that the teacher will encounter problems and is the role of the technology coordinator to ensure that support systems are in place. There are two possibilities that may occur when difficulties arise. One may come from the mistakes performed by the teacher when attempt to incorporate the use of the new technology within their learning environment. Put simply, they don?t know fully how to use the new technology. A very simple example might be that they want to incorporate multiple columns in a word processing document so their students can create brochures, and they themselves don?t know how to create multiple column. As issues such as this come up, support systems must be in place so that the teacher does not have a large delay in implementing this process. Another situation they may encounter is specific component failure. If a printer or scanner doesn?t work, if classroom computers lock up, or if access to the World Wide Web is interrupted during a critical period it will be necessary to have available technical support available to resolve these issues on a timely basis.
With the flood of available technology coming into the classrooms the responsibility of planning and implementation becomes ever more difficult. The role of the technology coordinator is much more complex than just an individual who can work with teachers to support the existing technology systems. The technology coordinator should be an individual who is familiar with the learning environment and cognizant of the challenges of integrating technology with curriculum. Simply placing new technology in a classroom is no assurance that it will be used. The use of technology in a classroom is no different from any other instrumentality. It must have a defining purpose and support the learning process as it is used. Technology is not external to the learning environment even though it is often used not as a tool to enhance learning but instead as a reward system for behavior in the classroom. By working closely with teachers, technology coordinators can help determine the technological needs of teachers, plan to support the use of the technology through effective professional development, and determine appropriate support when difficulties arise.
An additional role of the technology coordinator should be a forward looking scout. As myriad new tools surface in is likely that teachers simply do not have the time to scour what is out there. Simple informational overviews may provide a wealth of ideas that teachers could then incorporate into their learning environments. It may make a tremendous difference if teachers could transition from students doing group work by typing their own individual papers and to then consolidate them later as a single group report, to the use of Google docs to work together in a shared environment. In continuation, they them may create a group presentation using the presentation feature for the teacher to review or for presentation in a class. For the teacher it might be a wonderful transformation to create a presentation with photos and video in the presentation of Google docs where it is centrally stored. There is no need to move files, worry about forgotten flash drives, and provides the ability to involve other academics to review and collaborate.
But they need to be aware of these tools before they can consider their use. Creating a simple tutorial to reinforce skills directly from the computer screen using Screen Toaster and greatly simplify not only classroom experiences but enhance distance learning activities. Many textbooks provide long tutorials with occasional screen shots, which can be helpful but also confusing. Short movies of computer techniques can prove to be beneficial for all and greatly aid those who are very visual in nature.
Working with teachersEdit
Using technology is not a process that is imposed on teachers. It should be an opportunity where teachers are provided with an opportunity to enhance their practice and focus on who student learning will be affected. Jamie McKenziev emphasizes the need to differentiate between training and technology professional development. Professional development is a long term process which engages teachers within a context of adult learning, addressing needs of immediacy of application, problem-based, and engaging which will lead to their own knowledge construction found within constructivist theory (. Ultimately, teachers are the only individuals who directly add value to the learning process. They are the ones who directly work with students and are involved in the learning process. All other people serve to support this activity. They must all working the teachers for a successful learning environment.
Plan for instructional supportEdit
As teachers learn to use and incorporate new technology into their instructional environment they are going to need support. The support can come from a variety of areas and all of them must be understood and taken advantage of.
Officially there should be a technology support number that teachers can call to receive assistance. The assistance can come in the form of hardware and software support from the perspective that they are unsure how to use this. This other situation is that the equipment or software in not functioning properly and they require assistance. In both situations they should have a number to call and there should be a documented action plan with specific response guidelines. In is not unprecedented to have teachers call tech support and have not idea when and if they may ever hear back again.
As teachers work with technology they discover new and interesting strategies to incorporate this into their curriculum. Some experiment more than others and it is here that teachers can share their experiences (and frustrations) and collectively solve problems. They are their own wealth of information and should be encouraged. Administrative support for technology exchanges should be considered.
Yes, students. It is very difficult-and potentially fearful-for some teachers to admit that their young students may know more than they do when it comes to technology. For those who are open and relaxed, admitting that they don?t know all of the answers when it comes to using computers, it can be a transformational environment. They can learn from each other and giving up some power to the students can enrich the learning environment. Be open and don?t be afraid to experiment, to engage others, to admit that there is much you may not know and above all, to have fun. It is a process of learning and learning is something that all teachers should revel in.
- Brown, J. S. (2004). A multimethodological study of teachers' perceptions of technology professional development (Doctoral dissertation, Western Michigan University, 2004). Dissertation Abstracts International, 66/07, p. 2546
- Duffy, T.M., & Johassen, D. H. (1992). Constructivism and the technology of instruction: A conversation. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.