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

Bob Lenz

Founder and Chief of Innovation, Envision Education, Oakland CA
Edutopia blogger Bob Lenz asks his students how they view the use of technology in education.

Each January, I have the opportunity to facilitate a course in Leading and Managing Technology for the Educational Leadership Program at the Kalmanovitz School of Education at Saint 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.

This year we even held class hangouts where students shared their reviews of technology tools. In addition, the students loaded their learning artifacts and reflections on a web-based digital portfolio called PathBrite. Finally, each student answered the question, "Is educational technology is worth the hype?" with a blog style essay. Each year I select one post to take over my blog in February. This year I am handing it over to Brian Cooper.

In addition to participating in the Educational Leadership Program at St. Mary's College, Cooper is also completing coursework through the Mindful Schools organization. He earned a Master of Arts in Mathematics Education from San Francisco State University and has co-represented a workshop at the California Mathematics Council's conference. Brian plays an environmental stewardship leadership role at Stanley Middle School that earned him Teacher of the Month recognition in May of 2012.

Technology Alone Doesn't Cut It

Here's what Brian wrote:

There's no doubt more technology is coming soon to a classroom near you. But is educational technology worth the hype? No, not if the emphasis is business as usual with a few more bells and whistles. In the current culture of technology, many of my students spend hours every day gaming in an online world of epic wins and instant feedback. My next-door neighbor says her daughter is in constant communication with her friends through technology. A room full of cramped desks and textbooks is a primitive place for many students. However, technology alone is not an answer to our greatest challenges in education. All stakeholders in education are tasked with reconciling our youths' engagement with technology and their disengagement in the classroom.

In Stratosphere, author Michael Fullan makes a compelling case for the use of technology in education, but with the understanding that it must be partnered with high-quality pedagogy and change knowledge. He believes we are in a once in a century window of opportunity. Education should instigate curiosity, collaboration and experimentation. The use of technology can individualize learning for every student, while even a master teacher has difficulty differentiating lessons for 30 students. Technology also provides students with real-time feedback, whereas it can easily take me a week to score and return math tests to my five classes. With the right teacher and adequate technology training, students will have unprecedented learning opportunities. With the right systems of implementation and access to technology, there can be a learning revolution in our schools.

Sir Ken Robinson and innovative educator Tony Wagner are excellent sources of change knowledge in education. These guys get human potential. Let teachers assist students in four ways: (1) recognize their interests and talents, (2) encourage collaboration and creativity, (3) facilitate meaningful learning opportunities, and (4) stretch students in new directions to promote deeper learning. I agree with Wagner that knowledge is not much more than a commodity in our world. Albert Einstein wasn't talking about rainbows and unicorns when he said imagination is more important than knowledge. What we do with knowledge is the juicy part. Whether we use pencils and paper, or iPads and Internet, students must be called on to use information in creative ways and be provided with opportunities to solve real world problems that can benefit their communities.

Technology alone is not worth the hype, but technology along with innovative pedagogy and applied change knowledge can transcend the hype.

What are your thoughts and ideas about educational technology? Please share in the comments below.

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Jennifer Gonzalez's picture
Jennifer Gonzalez
Blogger at Cult of Pedagogy
Blogger 2014

I think Brian's hits the nail on the head. Once we open ourselves up to new possibilities for instruction, the prospects get really exciting.

My thinking was definitely broadened by reading Marc Prensky's book, Teaching Digital Natives. In it, he describes the concept of partnering, an arrangement where the teacher sets clear learning goals for the students, but the students themselves decide how they will reach those goals. They choose the tools for obtaining the necessary information AND the tools they will use to demonstrate mastery of the learning. It's a little scary to think about jumping right into that kind of arrangement, but Prensky offers a lot of practical advice for gradually working toward more partnering with students.

Anyone interested in really changing the way they teach with technology would benefit from this book.

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