Integrating educational technology in the classroom

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Educational technology is tricky for some teachers

Should educators embrace educational technology from the traditional paradigm? (Photo/ hawkpride.lisd)

One common education trend that finds some administrators and teachers scrambling to keep up involves the use of every-changing technology in the learning environment.

Is the old system just adverse to change and merely experiencing growing pains when it comes to the implementation and use of educational technology? While a common belief among some administrators and teachers is education trends are too fast and furious, former teacher and TeachThought Director of Curriculum Terry Heick tells VOXXI that innovations aren’t being fully embraced and understood enough to keep pace.

“I would argue technology isn’t coming fast enough,” Heick said. “What we’re seeing is panic or ‘Wow, this sounds great but now what?’ It’s not so much the ideas are inherently flawed. I think what we might be struggling with is a fracture of the way we always learned. It’s a disruption of that system.”

What’s the issue with educational technology?

Heick’s recent blog noted that teachers are used to hearing all about how innovative education trends – related to technology and curriculum – are going to fix what’s broken with the schools. However, often the suggestions haven’t been fully researched or superintendents and school administrators are venturing down paths with blinders on hoping to duplicate any success without fully comprehending the technology or data.

More so, Heick points to another inherent barrier regarding implementing education trends and educational technology.

“In the formal learning environment – relative to curriculum, teachers and the idea of parsing content – the machine that has existed for the last century has sort of grown into this large and cumbersome beast that lacks agility, lacks the ability to respond quickly,” Heick said. “It has a certain inertia about it that that could be comforting in some ways but in the face of the kind of change we’re seeing today, it actually illuminates public education for many of its shortcomings.”

How educational technology actually disrupts class

Heick talks about the disruptor factor in his blog. A good example of how disruptors affect education trends and educational technology involves the popular iPad, which more and more districts are providing students for in-class instruction.

“When students have iPads, I don’t think it’s hyperbole to suggest they have the universe and information in their hands,” Heick said. “They have an incredible tool in their hands and almost by design, anything the teacher has them do is not going to be empowered by that iPad but the learning is going to happen in lieu of that iPad.”

That learning is in the antiquated model of educators teaching lessons from a textbook instead of embracing the iPad technology as a foundation for innovative educational opportunities.

“Suddenly the way we’ve been parsing content seems kind of limiting or now the way I’m teaching the whole class the same way makes no sense if a kid has a tablet in their hands,” Heick said. “Now when kids sit and listen [instead of using the technology], that makes no sense.”

A sea change is needed

The issue with embracing educational technology is educators are attempting to use these innovations to accomplish the same type of instruction. Heick said this is natural considering an acclimation period is required for any new tool. What’s needed however is a paradigm shift that allows for greater flexibility and self-correction.

“Once we shift that paradigm, [technology] can have a weight in what’s possible,” Heick said. “Right now teachers and administrators are struggling to understand and keep up with that rate of change. One take away might be for educators to not seek out diversity but let go a little bit and re-conceive what is learning, what’s possible in learning, what do we expect? The old system was based on an old set of technologies and a type of thinking. Now we have a new generation of data and technology and expectations from students. We have to respond to that.”

Integrating educational technology

• Create concept-maps or diagrams that analyze what changes the new technology suggests
• Talk to other schools that have made similar changes
• Talk to “non-schools” about how they use technology
• Be patient
• Everything – from learning models to curriculum, assessment and data reporting – should be open for rethinking

Heick said, “Start now, start small, and use it to personalize rather than automate. Promote self-directed learning, as well as consider project-based learning, game-based learning and other approaches to framing curriculum. Also, focus on deep understanding

“Don’t do it by yourself. Don’t think you have to have the most expensive gadgets and toys. Be sure to listen to students and what they suggest. Also, don’t get distracted from learning and understanding.”

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