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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Is Educational Technology Worth the Hype?

Bob Lenz

Co-founder and Chief of Innovation, Envision Education, Oakland CA

Each January, I have the opportunity to facilitate a course in Leading and Managing Technology for the Educational Leadership Program at St. Mary's College of California. We organize our learning by exploring the question, "Is educational technology worth the hype?" Together we read Michael Fullens' book Stratosphere, interview school leaders, explore educational technology tools, and follow and comment on education blogs.

The students loaded their artifacts of their learning on a web-based digital portfolio called PathBrite. Finally, each student answered the question of whether ed tech is worth the hype on our class blog, worththehypeornot. Each year I select one student to take over my blog in February. This year I am handing it over to Colleen Clements.

Colleen Clements' teaching experience includes seven years of middle school instruction at Saint Matthew Catholic School in San Mateo. Prior to that Colleen taught Environmental Education at an outdoor program for fifth- to eighth-graders throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. Colleen currently teaches Bicycle Safety to second to eighth grade students with the Safe Routes to Schools program of Sonoma County. Colleen most enjoys teaching students through interactive and experiential learning. Here's Colleen:

Colleen Clements

The Hype is Here to Stay!

A question of the "worthiness" of the hype surrounding the use of technology in modern education seems almost moot. That ship has sailed and we've entered the vast ocean of the digital age as a society. Similar to a Pandora's box, society has bought into the hype of technology (both figuratively and literally) and technological innovation cannot reverse course. Therefore, use of technology in education must attempt to prepare today's learners to meet the demands of tomorrow. Whether or not education rides with or resists the waves of change within in the classroom, the momentum of a technologically dependent economy and society will continue. Our students will grow up within a society that demands a proficient and prolific use of multiple technologies. They need support from educators to navigate the vast ocean of information technology and the intellectual skills necessary to survive and thrive in our modern digital world.

One key benefit of the technology hype in education has been the re-examination of the role of education for the 21st century. Technology has made access to information fast, easy and prolific. Education therefore serves less as an access point for information, but rather a community within which to develop ones ability for purposeful, skilled and intelligent use of information. Successful education now includes a pedagogy that allows students to discover personal interests through choice, enhances intellectual capacity to discern between and utilize various sources of information, improves ability to collaborate with peers and mentors to create, develop, and publish authentic works or applications of information and provides opportunities for students to engage in real-life experiences in our rapidly changing society.

In a way, education must play "catch-up" in this digital age and learn to utilize technology that today's students want to and already interact with. Further, technology can assist educators in guiding students to become solution-oriented citizens prepared to face the challenges of a multifaceted and diverse world.

However, the hype to use the latest and greatest technological innovation must serve as a secondary concern for educators and educational institutions. In essence, focusing on the type of technology used in education rather than the purposeful use of technology could grant teachers access to the technological tools without any vision for what to build. Education must primarily focus on developing life-long learners with the ability "self-educate" utilizing the vast quantities of online information, digital media, digital learning communities and applications (free and otherwise) as a means to a purposeful, productive and self-driven end.

What place and importance does technology have in education? Please share with us your thoughts in the section for comments below.

Bob Lenz

Co-founder and Chief of Innovation, Envision Education, Oakland CA
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Comments (11)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

LFA's picture
LFA
Director of preschool through 6th Facility.

I sincerely appreciate this article! I do agree with what was said throughout the article. We are living in a time where technology seems to be taking a significant stance in daily living. However, being from a small community, there are some who are reluctant to the use of technology in learning. I know some educators who refuse to get an email address. How do we penetrate the minds of people like this to get them on board before they end up too far behind?

Patricia Moreno's picture

I too am appreciative of this article. With the enormous effort behind integrating technology in the classroom I was beginning to wonder about the influence and motives of the powerful corporate world, and how convenient it is that teachers and administrators become their salesmen by actively promoting the use of their electronic devices. After all what a better way to sell all those glitzy, glamorous products with all the great promises of being so well-educated and socialized!

Madhan's picture

Ofcourse, education in the traditional sense of a teacher holding a book and speaking to a class full of kids has changed. I saw an article at www.uniguru.co.in , which says Cloud computing and mobile technology are in vogue as schools and colleges cut down on expenses by using Google Apps and complete and review projects at writing tasks online with collaborative and constructive feedback. :-)

Gloria Becker, EdD's picture
Gloria Becker, EdD
Program Director, Educational Technology

I agree with the fact that we no longer need to question the worthiness of technology integration into our classrooms. I also agree that there are too many teachers being left behind, either because they choose to be or because their school does not have the resources that are needed.

I would actually like to see the corporate world become more involved with schools by pricing themselves INTO the market, not out of it. Hardware needs replacement almost every three years. Equipment needs to be serviced regularly. Teachers need training to use the new equipment AND how to integrate technology as an instructional strategy. When I lead professional development, I try very hard to emphasize that technology is one instructional strategy, like using a movie or film strip used to be. I think most teachers get that analogy. We've always had some kind of new gadget to use. I think what is different now is the speed of innovation and I can understand that sense of being overwhelmed all the time.

DaniW's picture
DaniW
9th grade English teacher

Technology has an increasing importance in education. Its purpose in the classroom is to facilitate new and interesting avenues for students to access and retain information. It also promotes collaborative working environments and allows the students to have ownership of their learning.
However, there still are naysayers when it comes to integrating technology in the classroom. Some teachers feel as though technology has not significantly aided student learning. They base their opinions on standardized test scores. I have to disagree with those who oppose technology integration in the classroom. But I think this blog posting makes a valid point about teachers focusing on the needs of the students before jumping automatically to the newest or flashiest technology.
I feel as though all students need access and practice with, if nothing else, basic technology in the classroom, such as computers, in order to prepare them for the real world. It is disheartening to discover a high school aged student who has difficulty with typing or basic computer functions when the world around them is so dependent on these skills. For some, the classroom is their only chance to practice these skills and it's our jobs as educators to familiarize our students with the necessary 21st century skills they will need to thrive at the next level.

Brandon's picture
Brandon
High School math

Thank you for your insights. I found many of your thought inspiring and they made me think. I know that as I teach my sophmore studetns that often the only way to keep them interested in the lesson is to use some kind of technology in the classroom. I find that the more technology I use in my classroom the more my students are involved in my lessons. I agree tha tthe boat of technology has sailed and that as teachers we must be on it.

Iain's picture
Iain
Assistant Headteacher, UK

Most people reading this blog will already be convinced at the 'worthiness' of technology. How do we get those less committed to 'self-manage' their own learning and training (given the shortage of funding for CPD) and access the digital resources and communites that are out there ?

gingamusings's picture
gingamusings
teacher, innovator and ginga

An interesting question - in my class, students had to earn a "laptop license" prior to using their laptop. This involved displaying self managing behaviour within the classroom, and then writing up their own contract. The contract contained three specific behaviour indicators that would result in the license being revoked - the beauty of the approach was that it was student led and their contract was personalised.

Other approaches include clear boundaries and consequences for inappropriate use of technology and screen shots/history checks on student laptops or computers. I found that when the students were engaged in their learning, they were not interested in going off task - Vygotsky's ZPD http://www.simplypsychology.org/Zone-of-Proximal-Development.html.

Hope that helps :)

Megan's picture

Just as technology has been integrated into all of our lives, it's nearly impossible for it to not spread into education, as well. I think this route in education is essential - as the world's technology grows, our systems must grow with it to maintain efficiency.

A lot of Apps make it possible for teachers to further motivate and inspire their students to learn and want to learn. Definitely check out this article if you want to learn innovative methods in which to use technology in the classroom:

http://bcontext.com/blog/index.php/new-ways-to-use-ipads-in-the-classroom/

Margarita Finkel's picture
Margarita Finkel
Social media for e-learning & technology

Technology is everywhere anyway. And If we don't use them, whether we adults or children we will be so far behind whose who use it. I think technology in education should have a central role because without it there will be no functioning in the real world and someday just about every job out there will be technology based.

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