The research literature offers little support for the popular (though perhaps unrealistic) rhetoric about technology revolutionising teaching and learning or teachers fundamentally re-working their lesson plans and pedagogy.
Imposed policy decisions and mechanical change models often appear unresponsive to teachers’ perspectives and their workplace constraints. A very small percentage of teachers are using social media to improve their personal practice (and in turn their classroom) and those who are often present a highly determanistic approach to technology-use. In their minds, technology creates a demand to define ‘information literacy’ to the point no everyone has a clear view as the debate is situated within a social and cultural system that cannot separate ‘technology’ from learning.
Students’ access to technology at school and at home has increased astronomically over the last few years. This access is not equitably distributed however, which creates social-inclusion and equity issues that are often secondary to the in-group focus on using technology to over come what are seen as ‘the big issues’.
There are two stories here. According to policy-makers worldwide, such organisational initiatives should lead to significant technological and pedagogic change within subject teaching. According to edu-social media concensus, these things are insufficient as at the way this is handed down to classrooms, maintains a view of academic capability as independent of technology capability (the Net Generation, Disrupting Class and so on). But school is about socialisation, especially in the early years, yet for most kids, e-social is almost completely ignored or presented as ‘cyber-safety’.
The appropriate and effective classroom use of ICT is a never ending story of disagreed practice where established curricula and teaching methods remain in place under a thin coating of technological glitter. The uneven and vailable technology distribution is easily underused and poorly integrated into either ‘goal’.
To take technology seriously, it must be used towards social inclusion in equal measure and fury – before any arguement about boosting student academic-performance or preparing kids for the e-society. It’s easy to become lost in romantic and erronious fiction, somewhere between To Sir with love and Battle Royale these days – as critical thinking isn’t the same of being critical of people who are a least trying to think of a better game.
A small story to illustrate. A child, about 8 with sight-impairment sits among her classmates on the carpet with an iPad. The teacher is talking about how waves work, and showing an animation on the interactive wipeboard. The image is beamed to the iPad at the same time and kid, nose against the glass zooms around looking at the animation. Did the kid learn about more or less about waves? Who knows. What matters more to that child, that class and the community is that socially inclusive practice is ‘real time’ or as near to it as possible. No one needed to show the kid how the iPad worked, and it was another kid who had hooked it up to the IWB of course.
A second story: a teacher with sight impairment went to an Apple iPad show for interest sake. The speaker automatically used the the general Apple schick (which if you’ve been to an Apple show, is often as contrived as the narrator on a theme park ride). Should she have to point out to the speaker she was being excluded? How did that make everyone else feel when eventually she pointed out her accessbility needs, only to discover the speaker had no idea how to enable it? Thats a social, not technological fail.
My point is that people are emotional learners and technology easily de-humanises and/or demonises. Information literacy is fine, but techno-lust of some, pays almost no attention to social inclusion as the ICT juggernaught rolls forward. It often comes from quarters where social inclusion, experience and well-being are central to the ideology. Damn hippies.
Case in point: Why are TeachMeets focused on technology? Why are they then shocked those who feel they are being marginalised don’t show up, or feel as emotionally compelled to ‘high-5’ each other on Twitter? What is there at a teach meet around story telling, imagination and creativity that isn’t technologically deterministic. The purpose, as far as I can see, is for teach meets to assimilate.
While I applaud good examples of ICT integration, and lament the lack of ICT creativity in my own kids day to day experience (not the teacher’s fault) – it’s fair to say (and well studied) great examples are few and far between. It’s great to feel empowered and inspired, but not everyone does, in fact it makes many people feel marginalised and de-motivated emotionally, and therefore you can’t be shocked when they don’t flash-mob Canberra holding plackards with popular ICT-change slogans aloft. Those who ‘believe’ will of course buy seats to be power-pointed about ‘what needs to happen’ for another decade, as ed-tech is a growing marketplace.
A futile question is: “List of all the things that make people want to use technology to learn?” Yet social-edu-tech constantly ask inane questions like this in order to respond, predicably with “the top 10 iPad app, the top 10 people and so on”.
Ask something more interesting such as “What makes a strong learner?” it would be remarkable if anything on these technology lists would even rank. The challenge is, if you ask this in the classroom and students to do not respond with technology – what is the right thing to do? Try a new one that they have not seen (again) or find out what technologies they use in their life. What if it’s not on Captain Obvious’ list? Will you explore it and consider it, or just ignore it?