A few thoughts and ideas

How well is technology used at school?


The SAMR model.

A colleague from another school shared a link to the article What are the Biggest Mistakes Teachers Make When Integrating Technology into the Classroom? This gives a summary of mistakes made in considering technology use in schools.

While reading this article I thought of a compounding issue that relates to these types of concerns. The problem, I posit, is that some types of technology are so ubiquitous in everyday use that there is a ‘technology so what!’ attitude that is developing. I think many students, parents and, unfortunately, some educators think that because they use their tablet, laptop, phone, and now wearable technologies, often in their everyday life they are ‘using technology’.  Well of course they are using technology, but as Allan November tells us regarding 1 to 1 laptop initiatives, we are often not using our technologies above the level of the ‘$1000 pencil’.

Though I know of some ‘bring your own device’  (BYOD) schemes that work well, I see the more impoverished designs of some BYOD programs to be symptomatic of an underpinning attitude that sees less need for sophisticated and detailed planning of technology use, as opposed to technology provision, in schools. This may come from a general belief that, as all members of the community use technology on a daily basis, the actual use of technology can then be considered a transparent factor. This is problematic and shows that the quantity and quality of technology use is being confused with technology infrastructure and the devices themselves. We are doing the equivalent of deciding not to worry about designing the use of graphics calculators because everyone has one and uses it every day, even though the main use is to draw down the edge of the case, using it as a straight edge.

I know many of my colleagues work long and hard to educate their communities in the hope that we can get to the M and R of the SAMR model. We need to be active in developing well-planned uses of technology that go beyond the processes of pen and paper. Often in schools the best technology is seen being used for pretty mundane activities where often the better tool would be an analog or physical device such as pen and paper. In my experience, the point I make above about the attitude toward technology can be seen regularly. This is reinforced by by the observed relationship between less effective use of technology and a teacher’s age. Though there is a wide range in the effectiveness of technology use with younger or more experienced teachers, I have often found that the relationship between teacher age and effective technology use is not the one you would have expected, expecially when we consider how effective we thought that our new teachers would be by now when we thought about educational technology use ten or twenty years ago!

Unfortunately Moore’s law only predicts technology potential, not actual educational utility. We have a long way to go. At least this will keep us busy for a few year’s yet.

One Response to How well is technology used at school?

  1. Peter W says:

    Spot on, Alex.

    I only introduced a BYOL (Bring Your Own Laptop) programme after upgrading network infrastructure and then spending two years where all staff from Year 7 to 12 built online courses in our LMS. This ensured that the laptops were used for more than just taking notes and ‘researching’ on the Internet. In fact, this now supports our campus wide move to Blended Learning.

    We also have minimum specifications for the laptops – i3/i5/i7, etc. We don’t accept any device – some devices just don’t cut it in the real world of education (as compared to the world of the superficial user and their use of the device for web browsing, social media and email).

    I believe there is an equivalent in the world of software. People in general (and some teachers in particular) see a new app that is ‘pretty and shiny’ and then think ‘how can I use this?’. It is the reverse of what it should be; choosing technology to solve an existing problem (and if it doesn’t solve the problem, don’t use it). Sometimes technology (both hardware and software) is used to solve a problem that doesn’t exist or has been mentally created out of thin air by the user.

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