Friday, December 3, 2010

Personal Beliefs and Assumptions about Educational Technology

1. The Technology itself (A Tool to get work done)

a. Technology changes quickly

- New and experienced teachers will regularly come into contact with technology that they have no experience with.

- It is helpful if teachers are open to potential experts within their classrooms. (Students may come with unique skills)

- We should not assume young teachers have more skills with technology.

- We need to develop strategies for teacher learning and sharing of ideas of innovative uses, as they become available e.g. professional learning networks, twitter.

b. Technology has a ubiquitous presence

- At what point do we stop talking about past technology (the over head projector). When do we either take it for granted or cast it aside? Is this cause for needless expense?

c. Technology can hold information for us to collect when wanted

d. Emphasis needs to be placed on good tasks, not the technology that serves them (Papert, constructionism)

- Technologies may extent and expand human capacity.

- Technology may shorten the path to efficiency but placing too much emphasis on efficiency will lead to pressure for teachers to master the tool and not the job that needs doing. (Feenberg)

Not just a tool to get work done, but also the place where we meet to do it. We can be connected in and with technology (Actor Network Theory).

2. Technology may Connect us (Not just a tool but a ‘place’)

a. A means through which we might relate and participate with the world (Digital Citizen)

b. Digital technology enables us to have a ‘presence’ even at a distance

- Personally I believe the best learning happens in a face to face, hands on, I need to know learning situation, but I recognize that good learning can still happen at a distance made possible by digital technology.

c. We can tell our stories and have feedback from others without physically being there (YouTube)

d. With collaborative technology students can meet to co-create, explore and work on a common task (Google Groups)

- In this ‘place’ teachers can begin to be concerned with creating learning environments that connects student’s questions to a world full of meaning.

We cannot understand technology merely looking at how it functions or by separating it from the experience of using it.

3. The Experience of using Technology in teaching and learning

a. Learning is contextual (constructivism)

- Technology should be introduced and explored in context

- Vygotsky, Piaget, Dewey, Rorty, Bruner

b. There are unintended consequences (Not a neutral tool)

- Both good and bad and everything in between. We need to be aware and responsive when needed, but being afraid is not helpful for innovation.

c. A professional literacy and skill is required for teachers

- General home experience with technology is not sufficient for the classroom.

- Developing a professional literacy is a personal, complex process. One size does not fit all.

- Teachers are busy people they need professional time to expand all of their teaching skills, including technology.

- Placing expertise (Help Desk off site) too far away is frustrating for teachers and leads to reluctance of use.

d. Learning is social

- We do not live in a vacuum we make sense of what we learn by telling stories about it.

e. Tacit knowledge is critical and difficult to express in text (Experiential Learning)

- We convert the lessons learned in experience into practical knowledge for future use (Dewey)

f. Lived Knowledge is a temporal affair (Dewey)

- The tools of technology will come and go. We should not get stuck or distracted by them.

g. Integration critical, not an add on subject

- We are talking about the need to integrate technology by connecting it in multiple ways to a curriculum and personal inquiry at an appropriate grade level, skill level and subject. (Connectivism)

- Need drives learning, the choice of ‘tools’ we use to support learning need to be readily accessible to support what we want to know when we want to know it.

h. Good teaching and learning needs to be the focus

- Technology should be in the background. We should not neglect the nature of knowledge in educational technology.

- We should shift the emphasis from what are the barriers for teachers to integrate technology to what are the barriers for teachers developing philosophical thinking about the nature of knowledge in educational technology.

Much of education reform seems to be connected to the idea of ‘teacher proofing’. It is the idea that a teacher can be given laptops but not given administration of them. It sends the message that teachers are not competent professionals and the experts are better able to make decisions about technology. If we want teachers to use technology for exploration we need to open a place for them to explore and permission to think of themselves as explorers. We do not make it easy for students by making it difficult for teachers!

4. School Reform and Change Assumptions

a. Change needs to come from a teacher enabling, reflective participation (Willis, Schön)

- Teachers are the key agents for change in the knowledge society (Hargreaves)

- Change needs to be more than correctly implementing a plan developed by someone else (personalization, differentiation)

b. Site based

- Solutions are not universal

c. Collaborative and Emergent vision

- Don’t begin with the end in mind

d. Theory should not be separate from practice

- Teacher’s questions tend to be of a practical nature.

e. Technology should not be thought of as a catalyst for change

- We cannot assume technology has an autonomous power to change teacher’s philosophy of knowledge.

The work on this blog post reflects my many experiences as a technology lead teacher, student and my doctoral candidacy exam. My memories were awakened after reading the following:

Willis, J. (2001). Foundational assumptions for information technology and teacher education. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, [Online serial] , 1 (3) . Available:


  1. Hi Nancy,

    Yes, these are all interesting thoughts and thanks for pointing us at Jerry Willis's interesting paper - the one that inspired you!

    I think one important principle is missing: our capability to deal with and manage change itself changes over time. Let's take a hypothetical case, of a new technology widget that *might* have application in education. In the beginning, the realisation of that potential will indeed not come from a vision but from the simple freedom to experiment. But when the widget is proven to be useful, and as the wider community (even, the whole of education) begins to understand that, then it is necessary to bring forward a vision and a strategy that all can relate to, and (hopefully) that they can commit to. Eventually (as in the case of blackboards, flip charts, overhead projectors, data projectors and whatever-comes-next-in-projection) you are not considered a viable source of education without whatever-it-is.

    I think that experience with technology innovation generally (not just in education) can be broken down into four stages:

    - Experimentation (your peers might think you slightly crazy, but you are having fun!)
    - Realisation and adoption (the trend becomes clear, leaders and laggers are seen, there is a major investment in change management)
    - Beneficiation (for a long and fairly steady period, all role players derive significant benefit and every institution - even the laggers - understands the need to have whatever-it-is)
    - Disposal (I was in a room recently where I saw what might be the last overhead projector in the world ... ? but, on second thoughts, probably not!)

    The other thing that bugs me is that too much research and reflection on technology in education fails to recognise the HUGE differences in key factors such as ...

    - What subject are we talking about? Are we teaching the geography of Chile (Google earth, Google maps?) or are we teaching Schroedinger's Equation (Modelling and simulation?)
    - What kind of teachers and schools are we talking about? Here in South Africa (as elsewhere) there are vast and embarrassing differences between the most advantaged and disadvantaged schools.
    - What kind of society are we talking about? What gets teachers and learners enthused in one context is not going to be the same as what gets them going in another.

    And so on.

    Good luck with your work, I may "drop by" again!

  2. Yes please drop by again. Thanks for expanding my ideas