Archive for Educational Technology

Standards III & IV- Reflections

Standard III: Teaching, Learning, and the Curriclum

Where the previous standard looked at the environment in which students learn, that is to say, how they learn, this standard looks at what they are learning (Williamson & Redish, 2009). In terms of the impact of this particular standard on the individual, it has never had more importance than now, as we stand at the precipice of a sea change in the way our students learn. As a millennial myself, I can hear and feel much of the frustration expressed by my students as they are forced to conform to a system that does not make sense to them, “learning” material that is readily available to them. I often find myself frustrated on their behalf, knowing that what they are being told is “education” is often so irrelevant and useless that it’s little wonder more of them don’t abandon it (the system, not to be confused with the learning process) altogether. However, while there is certainly a marked difference in the way today’s students learn, there are certain markers in their behavior that have never changed. Students have always been more focused on the whole than the individual pieces. They are, after all, a whole child and they quickly and readily integrate the various puzzle pieces that is their life into a great tapestry that, more often than not, adults try to separate, segment, and isolate (Dewey, 1902/1966). The question, then, is what do we do moving forward?

For starters, it becomes clear that there must be clear alignment between what our students are learning and the world they live in. This could, effectually, be boiled down to the age-old question: “When will I ever use this?” There is little doubt that the world our students live in and the rooms they occupy during the time that is known as school are worlds apart, both in content and in form/structure. Where Standard II dealt with the physical learning spaces, Standard III ensures that technology facilitators are proficient in dealing with the actual curricula students are presented and asked to master. Thus, the “big question” of Standard III is essentially, “What are we teaching them?” Henry Jenkins argues, for example, that the influx of new technology does not mean we are pushing out everything that is not digital. On the contrary, he argues that textual literacy is of utmost importance if students are to be able to fluently participate in today’s society (2009). Many seem to think technology is the magic pill that, by simply adding to existing learning structures, will act as a cure-all. However, this is patently false. Technology must be aligned with existing structures and curricula to provide media-rich environments and new ways for students learn, particularly as the rest of the world, including business leaders, parents, government officials, and even parents are concerned that students are not being prepared for the world they will soon inherit (Williamson & Redish, 2009). Thus is the role of the technology facilitator according to Standard III.

Standard IV: Assessment and Evaluation

The now-infamous law known as No Child Left Behind set forth two key requirements in the area of accountability in that every state must now set standards for grade-level achievement as well as develop a system that will measure each student as well as each subgroup/demographic according to those standards (Paige, 2004). This has direct implications on Standard IV which delineates the knowledge and proficiency of a technology facilitator in the area of assessment and evaluation. This standard predominantly involves the development and execution of varied methods for assessment and evaluation, including technology-based tools.
This area has the most potential, assuming those at the highest levels of educational policy development are willing to listen to professionals in the field as well as what the most current research states. For example, there is essentially no research in existence that points to a single-modality, multiple-choice, paper-based exam as the best or most effective way to assess the learning of students. However, as John Schacter notes in a report that even pre-dates No Child Left Behind, students in “technology rich” environments as well as students with special needs in similar environments all saw marked increases in achievement beginning as early as preschool and continuing through higher education (Schacter, 1999). Why, then, are we as facilitators charged with the task of finding new and innovative ways to assess and evaluate student learning when all that is valid or credible at the state and federal level is a paper-based, multiple-choice test that, if we’re honest, is more based on fact-regurgitation than application, synthesis, or evaluation? However, it does appear as though there are a number of technology-assisted assessments that are be developed and may even begin to constitute evaluation beyond just that of “choose the best answer” (Williamson & Redish, 2009). Imagine a testing environment where some students are playing games, others are building a model of a historical object, others are developing a comprehensive report and presentation, and yet others are creating a multimedia presentation to serve as a cumulative portfolio of their learning. This is what is expected of instruction and it won’t be long before this is the realm we find ourselves in when it comes to testing, assessment, and evaluation. If our instruction should match the individual learning needs of students (differentiation, universal design for learning), shouldn’t our assessment of their learning?

Digital Graphics EDLD 5366

“There is skepticism in the educational community regarding the applicability of gaming to education. Games have been shown, in numerous studies and in homes across America, to both excite and motivate students. What impact does this have on the education community? As with any technology integration, the integration of games and simulations affects how curriculum is delivered in the classroom. How would you assist your co-workers unpack the potential of educational gaming? What questions would you ask when evaluating an educational game prior to using it in the classroom?”

In the realm of education, the current emphasis is “data-driven decision making.” These days, it seems like you can’t do anything unless there is a mountain of data to back it up. (This, of course, proves to be a problem if you actually want to do something new.) Naturally, the reverse is true: you can justify nearly anything if you have the data to back it up. At this stage of the game, there is quite a significant amount of research and data now. I get the opportunity, almost daily, of talking with other educators about why it is that students just want to play games online. I hear all the time “all they wanna do is chat and play games.” Yup. There is something inherently “sticky” about games, even in a culture that can’t seem to pay attention to anything for more than 5 seconds. My question to them: What if the games they were playing were reinforcing learning? What if the game’s objectives were aligned with classroom objectives? What if the game was engaging them in higher order thinking skills? Would they be valuable then? (Incidentally, the rationale I use to justify gaming to other educators would mirror my selection criteria for in-classroom games.)

Week 4 Digital Newsletter

Technological Infrastructure- How are we doing?

According to the Texas Long-Range Plan for Technology, 2006-2020, “The infrastructure of a school is the critical element of support for all four critical element of support for all four areas of this plan: teaching and learning; areas of this plan: teaching and learning; educator preparation and development; educator preparation and development; leadership, administration, and instructional support; and infrastructure for technology.” If the plan itself declares that the success of the entire program rests on infrastructure, I would think it is safe to assume it’s fairly important. The infrastructure (as far as technology in schools is concerned) strives to be described as “on-demand access for every student, direct connectivity available in all rooms and web-based resources in multiple rooms. All rooms are connected to WAN. They are fully equipped with appropriate technology.” (Found here)

While I am certainly not a wise, old sage that has been around forever (I graduated high school in 2005), I don’t remember my days in school fitting this description. Rather, I remember each classroom having a computer or two, usually in the back, always powered off. Teachers had a Dell, complete with CRT monitor and ineptly named “Quietkey” keyboard, but it was only for taking attendance or, in the case of one savvy Economics teacher, showing clips from The Simpsons. (Thanks, Mr. Klingbeil, I will never forget the Law of Diminishing Returns for as long as I live because of you!)

However, even a cursory glance at national, state, and local data would suggest that we are indeed moving in the right direction. In the 2005-06 school year, 48.3% of respondents described themselves as “developing tech,” meaning there are 5-9 students per computer, about 50% of classrooms have Internet, and most additional resources are shared. 42.7% classified themselves as “advanced tech,” meaning there are 4 or less students per computer, 75% of classrooms have Internet while all rooms are at least connected to the LAN/WAN. Only 2.5% placed themselves in the “target Tech” category, as described in the first paragraph. One year later, the “developing tech” category shrunk to 39.3% as “advanced tech” surged to 53.3% and “target tech” increased to 5.2%. The next year saw some growth, but not near the level of the previous year, with “developing tech” moving down again to 34.9% of respondents, “advanced tech” increasing marginally to 57.2%, and “target tech” growing to 6.7%. In just a couple of years, the technological infrastructure necessary to make changes has seen a marked increase. At my own campus, we have increased within the “advanced tech” category each of the last three years. At this pace, next school year our campus will be at the “target tech” level for our infrastructure. This, in the midst of a campus that is certainly not built with computers in mind, as it is nearly 60 years old.

It is encouraging to see marked progress in this area and trends across the board that support the idea that technology is an invaluable tool in our educational system and we must have the infrastructure in place to be able to use it. In the same way that a car can get you from A to B without the use of roads, it is certainly a faster, more efficient process to use roads that have been designed with the car in mind. By expanding the actual infrastructure, with the learner in mind, we not only move towards the coveted “target tech,” but improve the learning and accessibility of our students. It is very difficult for teachers to use and implement tools that are not available to them!

If you are an educator and you have ever thought to yourself, “I wish they could see/do/experience this” (whatever this may be), technology may provide the vehicle for you. Districts, however, need to provide the roads.

A Google slideshow about the STaR Chart prepared for the faculty of Moore MST Magnet School can be viewed here: Moore MST Magnet School STaR Chart Explanation