Thoughts from a reflective educator.
Part of any useful activity is to make sure you reflect upon the outcome of that activity afterward. This reflection helps you improve your practice and retain the connections you have developed through the course of the activity for a longer period of time. Sustainable practice is only possible through careful reflection.
We just finished a week long exercise where we were to interview a person in our school or workplace and find out what their use of technology is, and what they think about the use of technology in a classroom. After transcribing and analyzing the interview, we were supposed to post our observations to our class forum. Once we finish our discussion, the last step is to write down what we got out of doing the activity. My answers to the guiding questions are below.
How is your understanding of this issue changing?
Well first I realized that there were some common threads between all of the interviews. I had not thought that everyone had the same considerations about how to use technology, so it was encouraging to see some agreement between some very different people. Pretty much everyone agreed that technology was most useful (or would lack use if this isn't present) when it is carefully included as part of a repetoire of tools. Technology should not be used for technology's sake alone.
I was also surprised by how many people indicated an almost complete lack of support for training in their workplace for the use of technology. In fact, I sent off a suggestion to my Alma Mater for a technology training course at my university and received a well reasoned out negative response. It seems that even some teacher training programs are reluctant to take on the role of helping teachers come to grips with their technology woes.
What more would you like to learn or know?
I'd like to have more data. Our anecdotal evidence was pretty convincing but there are definitely some sampling errors introduced by our biases when selecting interviewees. It is unlikely that any Luddites would have consented to being interviewed for example, so most of us probably selected people who had some opinion about technology, one way or another. A nationwide survey of teachers, where we find out what technology they use, where they want additional support, and what technology would they like to be able to use, would be a really useful tool.
In what ways was your interview unique or similar to others?
Well my interview felt unique in the sense that the person being interviewed didn't complain about the cost of the technology. This is probably because we both currently work in a private school where the per student expenditures are higher than in a typical public school. As well, our labour costs are incredibly cheap because of our location (Thailand) so the school has a much stronger budget for technology.
I've already mentioned a major similarity between my interview and other interviews, which was that technology as a tool needs to be implemented carefully and not haphazardly. Without this, it lacks purpose and can end up getting in the way of student understanding.
What does this say about the context/place or the issue?
It seems to me that, in terms of context, the use of technology is very similar in a wide variety of situations, but specific issues that arise can be quite location dependent. In my school we have excellent physical resources, but lack strong internet connectivity. Many of the videos and simulations we'd like to be able to use, for example, are much too bandwidth intensive to be useful in our part of the world. However, unlike other schools we have all of the hardware that we need. Instead of debating the cost of LCD projectors in classrooms, we have LCD projectors in every classroom in my school. The context of the discussion that occurs is therefore very important as different observations can be made in different schools. What seemed to be contextless however was the realization of all the participants in our discussion that technology, when used wisely, is a powerful educational tool.
Which issue do you want to explore further and why?
I'd like to have more of a discussion about different types of technology. I'd also like to be able to contact some of the people who were interviewed (which of course we cannot do because of privacy concerns) and get some more ideas from them. Many of the teachers were mathematics teachers who had some very interesting ideas on how to use technology.
David is a mathematics teacher and a learning specialist for technology at Stratford Hall in Vancouver, BC. He has been teaching since 2002, and has worked in Brooklyn, London, and Bangkok before moving back to Canada. He has his Masters degree in Educational Technology from UBC, and is the co-author of a mathematics textbook. He has been published in ISTE's Leading and Learning, Educational Technology Solutions, The Software Developers Journal, The Bangkok Post and Edutopia. He blogs with the Cooperative Catalyst, and is the Assessment group facilitator for Edutopia. He has also helped organize the first Edcamp in Canada, and TEDxKIDS@BC.