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Technology Integration March 29, 2009

Filed under: Weekly Readings — saraprimerano @ 11:32 am

“Learning from Teachers’ Conceptions of Technology Integration: What Do Blogs, Instant Messages, and 3D Chat Rooms Have to Do with It?” Erica Boling

– I’m a fan of professional development workshops, at least the really purposeful and constructive ones, which is not something all teachers will say.  I was confused as to why so many of my more veteran colleagues were so intently negative about attending workshops.  I quickly learned that, perhaps rightfully so, teachers are wary of fads.  They get frustrated to put forth a lot of time and effort learning a new technique and initiative that the district pushes for a few months, maybe even a year or two, and then drops and never revisits.  Often the administration changes and brings in new initiatives, sometimes budgeting fails, or more often, interest just vanishes.  Then, fifteen or twenty years later, the same general ideas are repackaged under a new name, and the cycle begins again.  So I don’t necessarily blame my colleagues for their resistance and this is something that researchers, administrators and curriculum development specialists need to be aware of.  Training in new techniques or philosophies needs to be couched in specific pedagogical terms with clear guidelines and plans for continued support and training, some evidence that the information is “fad-proof” or teachers aren’t likely to commit.

It’s interesting though that Boling found that her study participants, a group of current and pre-service teachers, had already relegated technology to the status of a bonus or perk, an additional way students can express ideas after they’ve already mastered the skills of literacy.  So more than half of the study participants hadn’t even started teaching yet, and already they were adverse to technology, so the fad excuse doesn’t work there.

– I’m glad that Boling acknowledged the “added responsibility” that incorporating technology into the classroom can result in for teachers.  When we began our laptop program at my high school, or even now with the laptop carts instead of individual student laptops, a plethora of time-consuming almost administrative tasks came with them.  We had to instruct the students on proper use, monitor that they were not doing inappropriate things with the laptops, buy our own extension cords so students could remain charged (the school said it was the students’ responsibility to charge their laptops – not useful to teachers when students weren’t prepared). We had to go to training on how to remotely monitor their computer use, we lost class time when the laptops weren’t working, students lost time going to the computer technicians for help.  It became increasingly annoying and time-consuming, and worst of all, ultimately, student performance didn’t show any measurable gains, so it all felt like a waste.  This is probably what ultimately led to its downfall. But even now, we drag carts back and forth with minimal assistance.  What we really needed, and still need, is more training that shows how technology can be used in meaningful ways, not just for word-processing.

– I find it somewhat disheartening (as I imagine Boling did) that teachers were so resistant to using technologies even as they were enrolled in a Literacy and Technology course.  While I certainly don’t advocate using technology just for the sake of using it, I do believe that we as teachers can’t be resistant to change and to learning new things if we expect those exact things of our students. I think it’s important to reach students where they’re comfortable, and not all students are comfortable with pen and paper or with books, but some students might be more comfortable expressing themselves through different forms of technology.

– The last assignment in my ETS142 course requires my students to make a visual argument (using PhotoStory or i-movie) rather than write a traditional paper.

It is entirely possible to make a claim or an argument visually.  Selecting what images best express your viewpoint, finding music to enhance that argument, all of these things require a higher level of thinking than simply following an outline to write a standard essay.  While I wouldn’t expect exactly the same output of my tenth graders, I could easily modify the assignment to suit their developmental stage.

– Boling’s final discussion about the public nature of curriculum decisions and acceptance is a little more accurate than I’d like.  As I’m finding, repeatedly, at my own school, all it seems to take is a few outspoken people who are set on a particular format for instruction or who are resistant to change to make their voices heard, and others become resistant as well, either because they agree or don’t feel like subjecting themselves to conflict. It’s so important to keep looking for ways to motivate students and research best practices, and this might be difficult.  Finding ways to navigate the social structure of a school might seriously be equally tricky.

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