Education ∪ Math ∪ Technology

Tag: educational technology (page 1 of 1)

Where will all the educational technologists go?

In the not too distant future, there will no educational technologists. That is, there will eventually be no people who specialize primarily in teaching other people how to use technology. The reason why we have educational technologists now is that the rate of change of technology is so high that many people struggle to keep up with the changes, and so some of us have specialized in "keeping up with changes in technology."

The positions that will exist will be analogous to the role of librarians in schools, who do not primarily teach people how to operate books, they teach them how to read and utilize books (and other forms of text material) to learn about the world. In fact, it seems quite likely to me that librarians in the future will include at least a minor role in teaching others how to research using technology, and how to use and critically examine technology as a learning tool, in much the same way that many librarians do already.

Moore’s law, which famously states that the number of transistors on integrated circuits doubles every two years, may be more appropriately modelled with logistic growth rather than exponential growth. Logistic growth behaves very much like exponential growth initially, but as finite limits in resources or capacity are reached, growth slows down, and eventually levels off. It is very likely that instead of run-away technological growth and a singularity, that we will eventually reach a point where our hardware capabilities will remain somewhat stable, and when this happens, eventually software will follow suit. A strong benefit of software equilibrium is that bugs in code will be less frequent, and interoperability between different software will be easier to maintain, leading to technology which is much more reliable overall.

What this means is that the rate of change of technology will eventually slow, and people will have to devote less of their time to keep up with the changes, which means that being specialized in "keeping up with the changes" like educational technology people do, will be less of an advantage over others.

Another possibility is that technological change will not slow down, and that eventually there will just be people who have merged with the technology, and people who have chosen not to. In this case, educational technologists will be equally unimportant as the people who do not merge will be completely left behind by technology, and the others will not need our support. This kind of scenario is fairly dystopian from my point of view, so I prefer the first alternative.

A third possibility is that our ecosystem crashes completely, and our civilization follows soon after. In this case, we will not need educational technologists because we will be spending most of our time just trying to survive. Again, the first scenario for me is far preferable!

Given that equilibrium in software is likely to happen long after hardware equilibrium, our roles are probably safe for at least a couple of generations.

Learning specialist in technology

This morning I had a great discussion with the director of the IB Primary Years Program at my school.  We talked about my role for next year, and what ways I could help his staff become more comfortable using technology.  My title for next year is "Learning specialist: Technology" which is pretty broadly defined, and I have the luxury of writing my job description.  I may never again get this kind of opportunity to define my own role, so I’m making sure I do it right by involving the primary stake-holders in the process.

First, we both agreed that my role would be primarily helping teachers learn about the appropriate use of technology in their classrooms, and less about teaching students directly.  This would take the form of 1 on 1 instruction with the teacher, small group discussion, co-teaching topics, demoing lessons for teachers, but probably not as much whole faculty instruction.  We both agreed, whole faculty instruction is of limited use: really staff need to all have a direct need for whatever you are presenting for this type of instruction to be effective.

Another exciting aspect of my job next year will be observing teachers.  This may mean I offer pointers on ways they can improve their use of technology, or I may just give positive reinforcement for when lessons are obviously working well.  I will do a lot of observations in the beginning of the year so I can gather information about what is working well already for teachers, and where there are areas which could be improved.  I’ve observed a lot of my colleagues teach (I used to make a practice of watching everyone in my large math department teach), perhaps more than most teachers with my experience, but having this process be more formalized is exciting for me.  It means a move into a more administrative role.  One thing that the director and I both agreed on is that my observations would never be used for punitive measures or for evaluating teachers, only for helping teachers grow professionally.

A great idea that the director had was helping teachers build action research goals for the following year.  Essentially this would look like teachers setting goals individually, or with consultation with me, and then helping the teacher plan their way through the meeting of the goal.  This could take an entire school year, or it could be completed within a few months.  During the year, I would be available as a mentor, or as a training resource as necessary.  What is important about this process to me is that it puts the teachers in charge of their learning in this area, and it is the kind of training which is sustainable.

One of the ways we are going to support goal setting is by having teachers complete a self-assessment form for their use and understanding of technology.  Our self-assessment is planned to focus on use in the classroom, as well as administrative use outside of the classroom.  Part of the form I plan to have them fill out will include will include some specific goals for the teachers to work toward.  This form will be submitted as part of our end of year staff meetings, and then we can revisit the personal goals of the teachers at the beginning of the year.  Here is a sample of the self-assessment form, which is still a work in progress.  This way we can start the year with some positive action the teachers can take, and hopefully focus each teacher’s learning on what they want to work on.

I’m excited about next year: it promises to be a learning experience for myself and for our school.