Technology’s Use in Education: Roadblocks and Considerations
What does technology look like? Where did it start and where are going with it? How is technology used in our world today? These are but a few of the questions that we need to ask ourselves in today’s educational climate. As new technologies arise, these questions will undoubtedly surface. Sometimes the questions are a result of limited knowledge about the technology, other times from a questioning of their efficacy. Regardless of the reasons for the questions, the answers to them usually shape how/when/why any technology is used. As technology has developed, rather quickly indeed, one of the major roadblocks to its use in the classroom is how do we use it and who gets to have it? It’s not enough for technology to be available but, instead, we should consider its implementation. Should it be the primary means of instruction or a tool to supplement what is already done in the classroom? Consider the current push for the use of [wikipop]Smart Boards[/wikipop]. Too often, teachers receive this piece of technology without proper training on its use or begin using them with only a basic understanding of the features available. Smart Boards are excellent tools in the classroom, if their robust functions are fully understood; otherwise, they are relegated to being fancy projection screens or white boards that do not fulfill the potential that they carry with them. Our goal should be to strive for transformative uses and practices that will alter student perceptions of education and learning using technology. Technologies use in low level applications, i.e. web quests, online scavenger hunts, basic simulations, etc, are valuable applications but they are not, by and large, the most effective strategies to use and we as educators should be looking to expand technologies application in our lessons to bolster its effectiveness.
Many new technologies have been developed, e.g. Smart Boards, interactive technologies, simulation-based software, but only a small proportion of teachers is utilizing these innovations to their fullest extent. One problem is that teachers are not as adept at learning new technologies and students often understand the technologies better than their teachers. Not a new idea but what effect does this have on a teacher? Teachers are often afraid of their ignorance regarding technology and many are overcome by the fear of looking inadequate in front of their students. So, instead of attempting to learn a new technology on the fly, many simply do not place value on it and continue using what’s comfortable, i.e. direct instruction. This is not limited, as is usually the argument, to veteran teachers. Many new teacher training programs do not fully develop the use of technology beyond [wikipop search=”Microsoft PowerPoint”]PowerPoint[/wikipop] or maybe discussion boards. Why not incorporate more techniques/pedagogies that are built upon available technologies? This would be a good place to start the training if we are to truly incorporate technology in our classrooms, when strategies and ideas are being formed in new teachers’ repertoires. This modality of instruction can be a valuable asset to have.
Another problem is the slow up-take and utilization of technology in schools; once a school actually gets the technology in their buildings it may be already outdated. Most students – young people in general – have an affinity for acquiring knowledge and understanding about the use and availability of technology. They see and learn about new innovations almost instantly, via social media, advertisements and word-of-mouth, and this leads them to feel that old technology, or what is perceived as ‘old’, no longer has any value to their education. Try using an overhead projector as the primary means of disseminating information to students and you’ll understand how quickly, no matter how wonderfully your lesson is thought-out and planned, students will lose interest. We live in an age where newer, faster, shinier technologies are being unveiled at an impressive rate and educational practices need to keep up if we’re to successfully incorporate technology in the classroom. It’s not enough to offer students direct instruction or simple uses of technology when cutting-edge tools are within a students’ grasp.
In education, there are many ‘silver bullets’ that all promise to increase reading comprehension or raise test scores or close the achievement gap, among numerous other claims. I fear that technology may be inexorably moving into that ‘silver bullet’ category. Too often, educators think that taking their students to the computer lab (or any other technology “center”) will instantly mean that both ‘technology’ is being used and that students are somehow more capable of understanding their lessons. This may no longer be the most effective strategy. Technology’s future as an educational tool is a promising one, but without further development of appropriate/effective uses for it we will slowly drift away from it, leaving it in the silver bullet scrap-heap. If we are to truly move towards a new paradigm in education, technology, and the incredible potential it has in the classroom, will only be at the forefront if we can improve its incorporation into our academic practices.
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