Based on your experiences, what are the greatest challenges for leveraging technology to empower learning in your classroom and school?
I have considered the above question at great length. It’s one of my favorite prompts thus far in the Kenan Fellows program blogs, and I wanted to get it right. Like many other Fellows, I thought first about the lack of funding, student access, and teacher training. Then, I read how fellow Kenan Fellow Kellie Perkins started her post with the definition of “leveraging”. One part of the definition caught my attention specifically:
leveraging: to use (something) to its maximum advantage.
So, to rephrase: How can we use technology to its maximum advantage in education?
Technically, one can consider that question without including one more drop of funding, How can we use what we already have to its maximum advantage? It’s not ideal, or even acceptable, but it’s still a possible theoretical discussion.
Also, it’s a complex question not easily answered in general terms. Schools each have different equipment available, teachers have different comfort levels and abilities, and educational goals vary within subjects, grade levels, and assignments.
The blog post “Is Technology Leaving Education Behind?” [South Africa] argues that technology is simply passing education by, and education can’t keep up. It asks the reader to consider someone falling asleep for one hundred years like in the story Rip Van Winkle, to then awake today. While the world would seem bizarre and strange to the century-long snoozer, the classroom would seem familiar, as it has hardly changed at all.
“A yawning chasm (with an emphasis on yawning) separates the world inside the schoolhouse from the world outside.”
Robin Bulleri wonderfully summarizes the idea of the chasm between some teachers and their students regarding technology. Further, she asks those educators to reconsider the permanence of technology in education:
“Teachers know how to live without technology. I can navigate a card catalog, I can handwrite a paper, I know how to look up stuff in an encyclopedia. To our students, living without technology is as absurd as living without indoor plumbing. It’s there to make our lives easier.We can’t take technology out of our students’ lives. Why should we take it out of their education?”
It is important to remember is that technology is simply a tool. It no more accomplishes an educational goal in and of itself than a pencil and sheet of paper (or a slate and chalk before that.) Educators’ understanding the right tool for the right task is imperative. A hammer does the plumber fixing the leaky faucet very little good.
There are a multitude of resources out there for teachers to learn about technological tools to engage students and make their jobs easier. I especially love “Educational Technology and Mobile Learning” because of its wonderful, user-friendly lists and video tutorials. Also a favorite for these reasons is “Free Technology for Teachers“. The concept of teaching and technology is not new one. Some have even coined the term teachnology. I’ve recently read some wonderfully innovative ways to show educators possibilities on how to use technology, like this post about flipped faculty meetings by Bill Ferriter. By remembering that educators are also learners, we can further demonstrate how technology can renovate and transform the educational landscape.
As it advances before our very eyes at an unprecendented pace, technology clearly has untapped potential in the education of students in ways we haven’t even thought of yet. In short, I believe there is no one best way to use technology to its maximum potential and advantage in education.
And even if there were, and even if I knew what that one way was, it would change before I spell-check this post and hit “publish”.
How do we increase effective use of technology in the classroom?