“I am just a child who has never grown up. I still keep asking these ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions. Occasionally, I find an answer.” - Stephen Hawking
Technology enthusiast or skeptic? That was the question that started this series of blog posts and now it will be the question on which I end. My initial response was that I am a skeptic who would like to be an enthusiast. The optimist in me wants to be an enthusiast. Being a skeptic seems so negative and there is enough negativity in the world already. But then again, being a skeptic doesn’t necessarily have to be a negative thing. For me, skepticism means that I am thinking deeply about technology: it’s role in society, in education, in our personal life and something that I have discovered or experienced creates a sense of concern. I’m worried about aspects of technology that I have witnessed in real time as well as by the users that I have researched and analyzed. That’s the great thing about being an academic – I’m constantly learning and reasoning and thinking about why I feel the way that I do about things. What I appreciate about myself is that I’m also open for change – change of my own opinions and the change in the way that I do things. So what I’ve decided is that I am still enthusiastic about what technology has to offer and I also accept my skepticism because it makes me careful, thoughtful and educated about how and why technology should be used. I think of this in terms of my roles as parent, early childhood educator and public intellectual.
How do I think about technology through the lens of my role as a parent? The more I read the more I worry. I have so many questions about the role technology plays in the lives of my children and whether or not it is beneficial or harmful. For instance:
I am also an informed individual. I realize that the world my children are navigating is a world in which they will constantly be connected to or by technology. My goal as their parent is to make them aware of how technology affects their lives and the control that they have over technology – and not the other way around. I work to support my children’s role as digital citizens and all that entails. It is my understanding, that to be successful digital citizens individuals must have digital literacy skills which promote sound use of technology:
Of course, being a digital citizen is also an important part of the educators' role in technology in the school and as an early childhood educator I need to inform myself on how that looks for myself and my students.
Early Childhood Educator
As an early childhood educator I am constantly emphasizing the importance of play in the learning environment. Unstructured, free play is inherently necessary for all young people to grow and develop. Children must be allowed opportunities to observe the workings of the world around them and play is a way that they makes sense of what they observe. Play is also essential for encouraging creativity and developing critical thinking skills. Vince Gowmon (2014) created an inspirational video titled, Come Out And Play: Embracing Life’s Infinite Playground, in which he reminds us of the importance of play for all individuals, not just for children. Play creates moments of reflection that are the building blocks for everything that we do in life – similar to Gowmon, I believe that only through play can we be free to embrace our own imagination, develop bonds of friendship and love, and realize our true selves.
How to maintain the importance of play is a critical aspect of the thinking that must occur when considering the use of technology in an early childhood learning environment (Donahue & Schomburg, 2017; Lee, 2016; NAEYC & Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media, 2012). Technology to be used in this environment has to be chosen appropriately with intent and with deep thought. The reason I love working with children is watching the wonder and excitement that occurs when they discover something new. Being able to share that moment in face-to-face interactions is invaluable. This cannot be lost in early childhood learning yet I realize the importance of our earliest little people becoming digitally literate and I see the value that certain aspects of technology can offer in terms of personalized learning, support and assessment.
In his book, The Innovator’s Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent and Lead a Culture of Creativity. (2015) George Couros’ discusses the importance of educators possessing a mindset of creative thinking and learning around the use of technology. Couros stresses that only with this positive mindset as it relates to the use of technology in education, can educators realize and utilize the truly beneficial aspects of technology and, in doing so, support their students appropriately. In order to support the use of technology in my early childhood practice, I definitely plan to utilize the theoretical models of SAMR (Puentedura, 2012) and TPCK (Mishra, P., & Koehler, M., 2006) to create an appropriate and sustainable use of technology in early childhood learning. SAMR to help produce a plan of action that makes sense and promotes growth and transformation of the process and TPCK to support the use of SAMR and more importantly, to push my meta-cognitive reflection on how and why educators who continue to access new information and push their own mindset for greater learning are integral to the sustainable use of technology in the early childhood environment.
In an article in the Atlantic (Coates, 2014), author Ta-Nehisi Coates discusses how another writer denied Coates’ claim that Melissa Harris-Perry was “Americas foremost public intellectual” and instead provided his own list of who he thought should be given that title. The article discusses the entitlement of prediction and who decides who and what is important enough to listen to what they say.
The article made me think about what being a public intellectual means – and for me it means that I am presented with a daunting task. I mean truthfully, who am I? Am I able to believe that what I have to say is truly important to others? After all, why would or should anyone listen to me? But then I think back to Coates' statement that what another person deems to be of relevance does not necessarily mean that only certain people should have a voice. Coates states, “We suffer for this. So many people charged with informing us, with informing themselves, are just sitting still” (Coates, 2014).
And therein lies the truth for me – started this blog and revealing what I see as important and intellectually stimulating is just as relevant as anybody elses's understanding or thoughts. The process of becoming a public intellectual has allowed me to open up and be true to myself; to not be concerned about being judged. It has also forced me to reflect on inclusiveness and how my words can be perceived by others. Am I writing in a just fashion – making my comments accessible to all? Can I remain passionate for what I am sharing and also use a vernacular that does not condescend but instead opens up the door to discussion thus, enabling a dialogue that pushes our thinking, mine as well, and creates opportunity for increased learning? This is what I want from my journey. The ability to communicate through a digital forum has opened up possibilities that I intend to continue to embrace. The enthusiast wins out in this instance and I don’t intend to sit still.
As I wrote this blog post I kept singing the same song lyrics over and over again in my head: “Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’ into the future” from Fly Like an Eagle by the Steve Miller Band (Miller, S. & McCartney, S. (1976, track 2). Part of the song states, “Oh yeah, there’s a revolution.” Now obviously Steve wasn’t thinking about a technological revolution but the truth of our reality is that a revolution is occurring and technology is here to stay. We have to stay educated about what it has to offer, how we choose to use it, and making sure that it stays a positive influence in our lives and the lives of our children and our students.
So what does the future look like for me in terms of how I think about and utilize technology in my own practice as parent, educator and public intellectual? Does it matter? In the documentary Digital Age, Doug Rushkoff states, “The internet has changed from the thing one does, to the way one lives: connected all the time” (2010, 24:08). As we slip into the future and technology becomes more and more a part of our lives we need to access whether or not this is good or bad. I propose that we take the road less taken, investigate, explore, and give technology a chance. I also propose we be purposeful, reflective and informed throughout this new journey. In the words of Stephen Hawking (Larsen, 2007, p. 4), “I am just a child who has never grown up. I still keep asking these ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions. Occasionally, I find an answer.” I intend to jump down the rabbit hole and have an adventure of learning and experience. Will you join me?
Coates, T. (2014, January 8). What it means to be a public intellectual. The Atlantic. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/01/what-it-means-to-be-a-public-intellectual/282907/
Couros, G. (2015). The innovator’s mindset: Empower learning, unleash talent and lead a culture of creativity. San Diego, CA: Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc.
Donahue, C. & Schomburg, R. (2017). Technology and interactive media in early childhood programs: What we’ve learned from five years of policy, research and practice. Young Children, 72(4). NAEYC. Retrieved from https://www.naeyc.org/resources/pubs/yc/sep2017/technology-and-interactive-media
Dretzin, R. & Rushkoff, D. (2010). Digital Nation on Frontline. Boston: PBS. Retrieved from https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/film/digitalnation/
Gowmon, V. [Producer]. (2014, August 20). Come out and play!: Embracing life’s infinite playground. [Video]. YouTube. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/redirect?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.vincegowmon.com&v=zCQB8gCx1xs&event=video_description&redir_token=27QL5ylQXeJVDODE92qR0DmnS0x8MTU0MDQxMDIxNEAxNTQwMzIzODE0
Larsen, K. (2007). Stephen hawking: A biography. New York: Prometheus Books (reprint).
Lee, Joan. (2016). Early learning and educational technology policy brief. United States Department of Education & United Stated Department of Health and Human Service. Retrieved from https://tech.ed.gov/files/2016/10/Early-Learning-Tech-Policy-Brief.pdf
Miller, S. & McCartney, S. (1976, track 2). Fly like an eagle [Liner notes] on Fly Like An Eagle Steve Miller Band [Album]. Los Angeles, CA: Capitol Records.
Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. (2006). Technological pedagogical content knowledge: A framework for teacher knowledge. The Teachers College Record, 108(6). Retrieved from http://onlinelearningcurriculum.pbworks.com/f/mishra.pdf
NAEYC & Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media. (2012). Technology and interactive media as tools in early childhood programs serving children from birth through age 8. Joint position statement. Washington, DC: NAEYC; Latrobe, PA: Fred Rogers Center at St. Vincent College. Retrieved from https://www.naeyc.org/content/technology-and-young-children
Puentedura, R.R. (2012) The SAMR model: Background and exemplars. Retrieved from http://www.hippasus.com/rrpweblog/archives/2012/08/23/SAMR_BackgroundExemplars.pdf
Adaptive Learning & Personalized Learning
Personalized learning… Sounds good doesn’t it? Offering a personalized learning service to all students, learning that is based on their own abilities, interests, stamina, and learning style - how could that be negative? The holistic, equitable version of personalized learning that I see in my mind’s eye has all students of all learning types regardless of ethnicity, race, language, culture, geographical location or socio-economic background, being provided additional support and scaffolding of skills and strategies that can enhance their learning. Yet upon research and reflection, much of what has been touted as essential for the utilization of personalized learning in schools today primarily involves the use of technology and is provided by companies and institutions that would benefit economically from the use of programs that service personalized learning. Even when we aware of the potential advantage of a sustainable program in personalized learning we need to be wary of where these programs are coming from and who is providing the data.
What is Personalized Learning?
The U.S. Department of Education defines personalized learning in the 2016 National Education Technology Plan document Future Reading Learning: Reimagining the Role of Technology in Education and the 2017 NETP update:
“Personalized learning refers to instruction in which the pace of learning and the instructional approach are optimized for the needs of each learner. Learning objectives, instructional approaches, and instructional content (and its sequencing) may all vary based on learner needs. In addition, learning activities are made available that are meaningful and relevant to learners, driven by their interests and often self-initiated.”
Entities promoting personalized learning (Educause, 2015) use a variety of definitions that are similar to this one. The most important components of personalized learning which are emphasized are:
What is Adaptive Learning?
Adaptive learning is a computer or web-based technology platform that supports personalized learning (Dreambox Learning, 2018). Adaptive learning gathers data related to a student’s performance and then uses complex algorithms for learning analysis to create a program of learning individualized to each student. Much of the research currently being done on adaptive learning is geared toward understanding the best use of the technology to support blended or flipped learning (Educause, 2017). If implemented correctly, adaptive learning offers the potential to provide additional support to teachers and students, enabling tracking of student work, immediate feedback, and facilitating greater personal achievement for all learners.
What is Intelligent Adaptive Learning?
Intelligent Adaptive Learning uses a cognitive model of data analysis to monitor student performance, apply immediate feedback, check student response, and use the data collection to “tutor” students in their best learning practice (Lemke, 2013). It meets the students exactly where they are in terms of their learning capabilities, stamina, and motivation so that they are able to work within the appropriate Zone of Proximal Development (ZDF) for each student (Lemke, 2013). Students are aided in knowing when to push through their comfort zone to a higher cognitive level or if the program senses that the work is too difficult and the student is struggling, the program will facilitate movement out of the frustration zone and back into the ZDF (Lemke, 2013). Intelligent adaptive learning is seen as the next step in personalized learning, allowing the student to feel confident in their own abilities, proud of their ongoing accomplishment, and to have ownership of their own learning potential.
Moving Forward – Thoughts on Personalized Learning Implementation
Moving forward, I can see the benefit in the use of adaptive learning for some but not all aspects of personalized learning - certainly the positive attributes of increased student confidence and ownership is compelling. Carter (2017) discusses the to create a successful program for personalized learning, teachers and administrators need to have a (positive mindset) that allows them to explore and utilize various learning programs. They need to implement a practice of support that looks at how students learn and thinks about what programs are available and viable. Teachers and administrators need to be open to change and their own learning, empathetic to individual student needs and challenges, work in collaboration with one another, their students and their administrative team to find the personalized learning technology that is best suited to their school culture and learning environment.
In addition, I cannot overstate the importance of the role of the administration in supporting their teachers. The process of implementing adaptive technology into a personalized learning program will require an understanding of how teachers work and learn as some may feel ill-equipped to adapt their own curriculum style to a new way of thinking and teaching (Tomlinson, 2017). Any decision to encourage the use of personalized learning should necessarily involve sustained learning of the best practice of operation and support. Professional development and tech support is essential (Zmuda, 2015).
Teachers also need to involve their students in the process. Larry Ferlazzo (2017) quotes Bertrand Russell “ To understand the actual world as it is, not as we should wish it to be, is the beginning of wisdom” to emphasize the point that in the real world, for personalization to be viable, it needs to have student engagement not as a “hook” as Ferlazzo states, but as the “spark” that sustains the process. Advocates of personal learning speak of the importance of student engagement and ownership and this means that students and teachers must work together to promote student motivation through understanding and self-efficacy.
Finally, let’s not overstate the importance of the role of the administration in supporting their teachers. The process of implementing adaptive technology into a personalized learning program will require an understanding of how teachers work and learn as some may feel ill-equipped to adapt their own curriculum style to a new way of thinking and teaching (Tomlinson, 2017). Any decision to encourage the use of personalized learning should necessarily involve sustained learning of the best practice of operation and support. Professional development and tech support is essential.
What do you think?
Regardless of my own positive view with regards to the potentiality for personalized learning I realize that there is a distrust of the testing and text book industry as it relates to the promotion of personalized learning, and more specifically, the use of adaptive learning technology. In light of these trepidations towards the tech industry as it relates to personal learning I leave you with these questions:
Adaptive learning. (2018). In Dreambox Learning. Retrieved from http://www.dreambox.com/adaptive-learning
Carter, Kim. (2017). Educational Leadership (Eds.). Five disposition for personalization. Educational Leadership.
Ferlazzo, Larry. (2017). Educational Leadership (Eds.). Student engagement: Key to personalized learning.
Lemke, C. (2013). Intelligent adaptive learning. In Dreambox Learning.
Tomlinson, Carol Ann. (2017). Educational Leadership (Eds.). Let’s celebrate personalization: But not too fast. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/mar17/vol74/num06/toc.aspx
U.S. Department of Education Office of Educational Technology (eds.). (2016). Future Reading Learning: Reimagining the Role of Technology in Education. Retrieved from https://tech.ed.gov/files/2015/12/NETP15.pdf
U.S. Department of Education Office of Educational Technology (eds.) (2017). National Education Technology Plan. Retrieved from https://tech.ed.gov/netp/
Zmuda, Alison (2015). “Personalized Learning” in Excellence through equity: Five principles of courageous leadership to guide achievement for every student. Blankstein, A.M. & Noguera, P (Eds.). Corwin Press. Chapter 7.
7 Things You Should Know About Adaptive Learning. (2017). Educause.
7 Things You Should Know About Personalized Learning. (2015). Educause.
Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age
Author: Sherry Turkle
First published: Oct 06, 2015
Publisher: New York: Penguin Press
Number of pages: 448
Genres: Science, Psychology, Non-fiction, Self Help, Cultural, Sociology, Technology
Sherry Turkle, sociologist, psychologist and Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor, is the well-known author of a series of books on our interactions with technology and the affect that technology has on the way we interact with and communicate with one another. Originally a technology enthusiast, after over thirty years of qualitive research, Turkle has become a technology skeptic; she isn’t arguing against technology and does see a place for it in our world today but she warns that we must be vigilant in awareness of how technology affects our ability to communicate effectively as a tool and not as Turkle states, the “architect of our intimacies.”
The main premise of Turkle’s book Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age is the notion that although technology has offered us greater opportunity to reach out and connect with one another, it has also created an environment in which conversations are no longer viable, face to face conversations are becoming a commodity and relationships suffer. Over a period of five years of qualitative research, Sherry Turkle has interviewed a broad range of individuals (including young children, teenagers, early adults, singles, couples and parents) in an attempt to analyze how and why we use technology to communicate. Through her research, Turkle has revealed evidence that supports the idea that our ability to converse in face to face interactions has suffered due to the use of technology. Our reliance on technology has made our ability to converse and thus, our relationships vulnerable to degradation. Turkle posits that this is a problem that we need to address immediately in order to use technology as a tool to augment our ability to communicate and not let it control the way in which we use conversation to enhance opportunities for creativity, productivity and important one to one interactions.
Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age offers relevant insight into how we, as humans, are losing our ability to converse face to face due to the ease and control of being able to hide behind our technology. The book provides many relevant examples of how we have become overly reliant on technology to dictate the extent of our relationships and the way in which we communicate with one another. Numerous interviews help to support Sherry Turkle’s argument and provide valuable insight into the way the use of technology is manipulating our interactions.
Although the book has many interesting case study examples, Turkle could have cast a more socially or economically diverse net of study participants. Her interviewees appear to be middle to upper class and are offered opportunities to use varying types technology. How would individuals in a less social-economic environment respond; how are their modes of conversation affected and how are their relationships the same or different? Turkle also tends to wander between her role as social researcher and opinionated individual: as she ruminates on the effect of technology to our ability to hold viable conversations she moves from clinical observations to personal observations and sometimes the distinction between what is found in qualitative research and what is personal opinion is blurred. She does bring it all back together again in the final analysis of what technology has to offer, both negative and positive, with suggestions on how we can counteract the effects of technology to improve on our personal and professional interactions. Finally, Turkle concludes the book with a discussion of privacy and social robots. Although pertinent and engaging, both of these topics would have been better suited to a different venue, perhaps even another book.
Turkle argues that conversation is important because it necessitates our ability to understand how we interact with people, when we need to be social aware, and when we need some quiet time. These moments of solitude, which are not available to us due to our constant need to be connected via technology, are crucial in developing skills in self-reflection and empathy. Without these skills we are unable to make proper connections that support our relationships, whether in friendship, love or professional lives. Without face to face conversations, our ability to be citizens, friends, lovers and professionals is compromised. We use technology to control the way in which we communicate – not just our words but our sense of self.
Sherry Turkle has offered us insight into a world in which technology provides us a way to hide while still feeling that we are a part of something. It gives us a false sense of personal connection and solitude wherein we are eternally connected but are quickly moving away from authentic social interactions. Often with the presentation of our “self” through technology we feel the need to perform, carefully curating the ways in which we communicate our personal self. As well, we tend to use communication through technology to stay away from uncomfortable situations and in doing so we lose the ability to sustain viable relationships that require open honesty and the sharing of raw emotions. Connected but at the same time disconnected, we have developed the tendency to say and do things that we might not otherwise do when we are in direct contact with other humans – seeing up close how our behavior affects others.
The machines we use to communicate have made it easier for us to step away from the day to day confrontations and realities of real life while becoming increasingly more intimate with technology in a way that makes it difficult for us to relate to the humans in our life. Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age tells us that connectivity is easier but at what cost to our ability to navigate relationships, whether personal or professional. Why is face to face conversation so important to our humanity and sustaining relationships?
As we navigate the ever expanding world of technology we need to develop strategies that allow us to use technology with intent, as a tool, so that we are in control of the technology and not the other way around. We cannot allow the ease of connecting with technology to replace important face to face interactions that. We need to focus on creating personal environments where conversation is used to support our relationships, to promote sharing and learning of our true selves and being comfortable with that process. Finally, we need to find a way to use technology in a way that only benefits and enriches our personal and professional relationships and restores our ability to converse in a sustainable and enriching manner.
Turkle, Sherry. (2015). Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age. New York: Penguin Press.
What the critics are saying:
I have been trying to decide what is most important to me in terms of how I feel about technology in school: the developmental appropriateness, the implementation, the equitable use across socio-economic boundaries, the work and professional development involved in supporting teacher practice when adding technology? The use of disruptive innovation of technology in education was a new idea for me and I feel like it rushed out of nowhere and hit me in the face. Pairing the words disruptive and innovation creates quite the paradox. Or does it? Throughout history, big changes in innovation have begun with big ideas that led to big differences in the way we as humans interact and move through our lives (for instance items that have increased speed and distance traveled –footwear, the horse, the horse and buggy, the car, the electric car, planes, etc.). Technology is here to stay – what about the use of disruptive innovation in our schools?
Sustaining Innovation vs Disruptive Innovation
Michael Horn (2014) is an advocate for the use of disruptive innovation in education. In Disruptive Innovation and Education, Horn (2014) describes disruptive innovation as the counterpoint to sustaining innovation. Sustaining innovation is useful in producing products that fulfill the understood needs of customers in an existing market. Items are conceived of that can help the company in the short term and are typically “safe” bets. Disruptive innovation, on the other hand, is technological innovation that pushes the boundaries, creating items that may be new or unheard of, and are not necessarily market friendly in the short term but can grow in time to be incredibly profitable. Disruptive innovations are usually well suited to small companies that can’t invest as much money but are willing to take a change on new or “disruptive’ technologies.
What Do We Think of Disruptive Innovation in Education?
In The New Faces of Blended Learning, Horn and Fisher (2017) discuss how the use of disruptive innovation in schools is essential in customizing student learning based on individual student needs, for promoting collaboration between teacher and student, and for providing a more equitable distribution of technology in the classroom for all schools regardless of socio-economics. In other words, disruptive innovation offers choice – choice to choose technology based on school and student needs, choice of technologies based on cost-effectiveness to the school, and chose for differentiation in teaching practice. They affirm that disruptive innovation offers a predictive model that can aid in the move away from the standardized reforms that are now in place and have been seen as diminishing educational progress in the United States.
Jack Gilette, former Dean of the Graduate School of Education at Lesley University comments on the misuse of theoretical models in education in the podcast, Disruptive Innovations (Patterson, 2017). He speaks about how Charter Schools have taken the progressive model of creating an environment that supports change and innovation in education yet builds it on a traditional platform without fully embracing the progressive nature of education. Along the same line, in his blog post Some Thoughts About Change, Innovation, and Watching Paint Dry (2015), Larry Cuban discusses the need to not just make old models of learning better but the need for new models, models that can offer a way to reflect and build a better, more efficient and equitable model of learning in the United States. Gilette takes it a step further and speaks about the importance of not just developing new models but new ways of cognitive thinking, a Copernican moment in education (Patterson, 2017). We need to find a way to really think about what is going on in education and recognize when an important shift in a way of doing or thinking about something is occurring.
Differentiation & Disruptive Innovation: Using Theoretical Models
Can schools take the next step and embrace disruptive innovation? Can they take technology that can push student learning in the classroom even if it may go against a schools’ overall conservative nature? Dr. Stephen Gould, Professor and Director of the PhD programs in Educational Leadership and Human Development & Learning at Lesley University, (Patterson, 2017), emphasizes the importance of differentiation and innovation, “As educators our charge is to make the time that they [students] are in school as fulfilling as it can be. This whole idea of…having a group that designs learning opportunities. Or a group that is responsible for the technology that would be part of this differentiated stratified sort of school. We need to be exploring these kind of things" [10:55]. If as Horn (2014) states, “convenience, accessibility, simplicity, and affordability are the classic benefits” of disruptive innovation in technology then perhaps utilizing design and teaching teams in school settings can aid in the process of introducing the benefits of disruptive innovation in schools.
“The disruptions happening throughout education more generally afford us an opportunity to revisit how we cultivate children’s learning and futures – and hopefully allows us to do it in a way that is even better, give what we know today. That’s not preordained either, of course, but we have the opportunity. It’s now all of our turn to shape it appropriately.” (Horn, 2014)
How can we best support differentiation and disruptive innovation? Can we see disruptive innovation as in the words of Michael Horn (2014), “… a new of thinking about education and how we can best “cultivate children’s learning and futures – and hopefully allow us to do it in a way that is even better, given what we now know today.” Perhaps the answer is in using theoretical models already in place to integrate disruptive innovation into the curriculum and overall culture of a school. SAMR, the theoretical model created by Ruben Puentedura, is well set up as a theoretical model to enable teachers to move forward from augmentation practices using technology to transform teacher practices.
The use of the SAMR model could be one way to help make disruptive innovation work in education by providing easy to follow steps for teachers and innovation teams as they go about integrating technology into curriculum.
Let’s really think about what we want to achieve and help to lead the way into the future. I think about the recent wave of teacher strikes across the country. These teachers (Reilly, 2018) have decided enough is enough and they are not going to let others (including their own unions) dictate how and when they should receive equitable pay and respect. I believe educators and student need to lead the charge on the use of technology in the classroom as well. There is power in numbers and quantifiable results support change from institutions that are mired in traditional modes of learning. Forget about the businessmen and the policymakers and the naysayers. Educators and leadership teams need to find a way to get everyone on board and then… full steam ahead!
If you were to conceive of a pathway towards introducing and supporting disruptive innovation in your classroom or in your school what would it look like? What steps would you take to use existing theoretical models such as SAMR or TPCK to implement this movement? Finally, do you see your fellow teachers and administrative leaders being able to move full steam ahead in developing differentiated modalities of learning using technology in their own practice? Why or why not?
Cuban, L. (2015, March 25). Some thoughts about change, innovation, and watching paint dry. [Blog Post]. Retrieved from https://larrycuban.wordpress.com/2015/03/25/some-thoughts-about-change-innovation-and-watching-paint-dry/.
Horn, M. (2014). Disruptive innovation and education. Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelhorn/2014/07/02/disruptive-innovation-and-education/#6453507c3c6e
Horn, M. & Fisher, J.F. (2017). New faces of blended learning. Educational Leadership.
Patterson, S. [Producer]. Disruptive Innovation. [Audio Podcast]. Retrieved from https://soundcloud.com/susan_patterson/disruptive-innovation
Puentedura, R.R. (2012) The SAMR model: Background and exemplars.
SAMR Model [Image]. Retrieved from https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/5e/The_SAMR_Model.jpg. Accessed on September 23, 2018.
Reilly, Katie. (2018, September 13). ‘I work 3 jobs and donate blood plasma to pay the bills.’ This is what it’s like to be a teacher in America. Time. Retrieved from http://time.com/longform/teaching-in-america/
As educators, why is a theoretical understanding of how we go about teaching important? Theories offers us insight and the ability to reflect on our practice and consider if it needs to change or adapt to meet the needs of our students. When teachers work with a theory of understanding of the learning process and pedagogy, it enhances the learning opportunities for both teacher and student and promotes a better learning environment. Theories, in and of themselves, should not stand alone but should be scrutinized for their capacity to promote teacher learning and curriculum development while analyzing their usefulness in supporting students and enhancing their learning experiences. (Bennett, 2001; Mishra & Koehler, 2006).
SAMR vs. TPACK
Two theories which teachers can utilize for working with technology in their classroom are SAMR (Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, and Redefinition) and TPACK (Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge).
SAMR was created by Dr. Ruben Puentedura (2013) and offers a linear form of thought separated into two categories: Enhancement and Transformation. The Enhancement area features the tasks of Substitution and Augmentation and are primarily seen as using technology in the classroom specifically as a tool. Next is the Transformation area which features the tasks of Modification and Redefinition, and opens up opportunities in learning that can only be achieved through the use of technology (Hilton, 2016).
TPACK was developed by Punya Mishra and Matthew Koheler (2006) based off of the earlier work of Lee S. Shulman (1986) which determined that teaching must combine pedagogy with knowledge of content to be effective. This theory thinks about how knowledge of content and pedagogy work together, how content and technology work together, and how pedagogy and content work together. It then examines how the three work interconnectedly and how an educator can use understanding of these connections to initiate better teacher assessment and practices.
HOW WE THINK
Considering that I am a newbie in the use of technology in education and given that I teach in an early childhood setting I assumed that I would be more drawn to the SAMR theory of using technology in education. Teachers have indicated that they feel that SAMR is more student-centered and relates better to changing activities in the classroom while TPACK is more teacher centered (Hilton, 2016). Based on teacher input, SAMR appears to be a more suitable theory to practice in an early childhood classroom. However, I still feel that TPACK is more suited to me as a learner and as an educator and I am going to reflect on why this is so.
"Transfer must be an aim of all teaching in school - it is not an option - because when we teach, we can address only a relatively small sample of the entire subject. All teachers have said to themselves after a lesson, 'Oh, if we only had more time!'...We can never have enough time. Transfer is our great and difficult mission because we need to put students in a place to learn far more, on their own, than they can ever learn from us" (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005, p. 44).
In How We Think, John Dewey (1910) posited that educators need to teach students to look beyond the facts being shared and instead to develop skills so that they can transfer their ideas to solve a problem by design, not just by chance. Being able to transfer understanding of one idea and apply it to another is essential in moving forward in learning (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005). For me, TPACK offers the ultimate theory and guide towards creating an understanding of how teachers use technology to benefit their students and enhance their ability to conceive of and transfer their understanding to think critically and answer big questions.
Although it could seem to some that this theory lends itself to more teacher directed learning wherein the ideas and facts related to using technology are primarily filtered down from teacher to student (Hilton, 2016), I would argue the opposite. When teachers have a reliable guide that aids them in their own reflection and assessment in creating curriculum they can be more self-assured. The more that teachers know and reflect upon how each of the three specializations (content, pedagogy and technology) work together in an ever changing world of technology and student need and experiences, the better equipped those teachers are to provide students with more opportunities to promote their own learning. They can be more confident in their ability to share their understanding with students, and provide students with increased opportunities to share in the creation of their learning environment. I believe that TPACK is the theory that best supports this objective.
TPACK is also better suited to my role of developing viable workshops for teacher training in implementing science within early childhood curriculum as it offers teachers a conceptual understanding of the role that technology plays in the classroom when it intersects with content and pedagogy. Through my time working with students and teachers in preschool education, I have come to realize that many preschool teachers do not feel comfortable with either the teaching of science or the use of technology in that learning process. If early childhood educators have an understanding of how these intersections of content, pedagogy and technology work in developing science explorations they can then hopefully feel more capable of utilizing technology to help support student understanding of science at a young age.
“We want to suggest a rich multiplicity of approaches that might well offer ‘competing attempts at offering better explanations’” (Hannon & Al-Mahmood, 2014, p. 748).
WHY NOT BOTH?
In a podcast by Susan Patterson, Susan Cusack, Associate Professor at Lesley University and Valerie Shinas, Associate Dean of Graduate School of Education at Lesley University, both agree that each models is valuable and regardless of which theory teachers use and how it is used, there should be no judgement either way: teachers should use what works best for their practice and their students. This brought up a thought which may appear contrary for the purposes of this blog but I have to ask, “Why not use multiple theories?” to, as Cusack states in the podcast, “leverage technology to increase learning?” For instance, what if I used TPACK in teacher training to enhance teacher reflection and assessment: thinking about how they teach, who their students are, and how they think they could best enhance student learning while integrating technology, yet suggest the addition of the use of SAMR in the classroom based on situation and need. And so I must end by asking, “Why not? Why not both?”
Bennett, S., & Oliver, M. (2011). Talking back to theory: The missed opportunities in learning technology research. Research in Learning Technology, 19(3), 179-189.
Dewey, J. (1910). How we think. Kindle Edition. Boston: D.C. Heath & Company. Kindle Edition.
Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. (2006). Technological pedagogical content knowledge: A framework for teacher knowledge. The Teachers College Record, 108(6).
Puentedura, R.R. (2012) The SAMR model: Background and exemplars.
Hilton, J. T. (2016). A case study of the application of SAMR and TPACK for reflection on technology integration into two social studies classrooms. Social Studies, 107(2), 68-73.
Hannon, J., & Al-Mahmood, R. (2014). The place of theory in educational technology research. In B. Hegarty, J. McDonald, & S.-K. Loke (Eds.), Rhetoric and Reality: Critical perspectives on educational technology. Proceedings ascilite Dunedin 2014 (pp. 745-750).
Patterson, S. (Producer). (2017). TPACK & SAMR [Audio podcast]. Retrieved
Shulman, L.S. (1986). Those who understand: Knowledge growth in teaching. Educational Researcher. 15(2), 4-14. American Educational Research Association. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1175860
Wiggins, J. P. & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design. Moorabbin, Vic: Hawker Brownlow Education. Kindle Edition.
Recently I was asked, “Are you a technology enthusiast or skeptic?” After some time thinking about this question and doing a little research on the topic, I am ready to provide a response. My immediate reaction was, “But of course I am an enthusiast.” Having worked as a research biologist, taught for more than ten years, and watched two (now teenage) daughters grow up, I have witnessed the benefits of technology, whether work or play related. I have seen how technology used as a tool in the lab and the classroom has been of great use and has made the process of work easier and the production level greater. I have seen how social media and online games have provided access to new social networks and produced new areas of interest for my own children and for myself.
I have also seen the negative aspects of increased technology, most of these from more of a social-emotional perspective. I have watched my children, students and peers have increased reliance on social media to create “friendships” – isolated moments of time from curated sites that don’t provide an intimacy of contact, which can promote negative feelings of worth, and which sometimes are used to hurt more than to help. I’ve experienced time wasted and one-on-one moments of contact lost through overuse of technology. I’ve worried about the safety aspects related to privacy and the anonymity that digital media in particular offers.
Perhaps my immediate reaction was incorrect, perhaps I am a skeptic, and yet, I think not. Despite the perceived negative connotations of technological use around social media and even gaming, I must concede that I feel technology is important and relevant to society today and needs to be properly explored and implemented, especially within education. I suppose that I am an enthusiast tempered by some skepticism.
What is an enthusiast?
Technology enthusiasts believe in the “transformative power of digital media” (Collins & Halverson, 2017, Chap. 3, pg. 9). Within this belief is the sentiment that technology offers the means in which to embrace a world that is ever-changing and to best prepare students for the role they must play within this world of technological advances. Technology builds communities globally and introduces new ways in which to think and learn. Enthusiasts argue that an increased use of technology to communicate and create communities, including through web-based gaming, such as massive mulitplayer online games, enables the development of new forms of media literacy (Collins & Halverson, 2017; Richardson & Postman, 2013; Thomas & Brown, 2011).
Collins & Halverson (2017, Chapter 2), stress the importance of specific aspects of the use of technology’s benefits to learning as expressed by technology enthusiasts:
• the creation of enhanced capabilities through use of technology,
• the ability to customize education to individual needs,
• providing learner control through customization of learning,
• offering interactive opportunities for learning that allow for immediate feedback and therefore increased student ability to assess and reflect,
• scaffolding within technology used to assist both teachers and students,
• the use of games and simulations to enrich learning, use of multimedia approaches to provide new ways of communicating related to learning styles and abilities, and
• increased opportunities for communication.
For the enthusiasts there is no question that the use of technology in school learning provides enhanced learning capabilities and as such, enthusiasts support the understanding that schools must openly embrace, adapt and utilize methods and resources offered by technology in order to best serve their students.
What is a skeptic?
When discussing technology and its use in education, skeptics support the basic tenet that computers and the use of technology in schools is a risky proposition that can lead to a lessening of robust classroom pedagogy. Skeptics fear that the advent of technology in the classroom will be corrupted by the consumer driven agenda of commercial media and this will lessen experiential learning (Collins & Halverson, 2017). Collins & Halverson (2017, Chapter 3) outline the basis of argument of skeptics for discouraging the use of technology in schools:
• cost and access (to both students and teachers),
• difficulties in classroom management and authority for teachers,
• limitations of computer education in terms of social-emotional aspects of learning including acts of inspiration and encouragement provided by face to face teacher and peer contact,
• challenges to instruction as relates to materials, tracking and teacher expertise, and finally,
• assessment of students and of curriculum.
A critical argument of skeptics is the lack of fact based evidence on the effect of computers and use of technology in schools. Another contention is that there is no control over how technology is used in schools and therefore, it is seen more as a distraction to students than as a tool for success (Collins & Halverson, 2017; Davis, 2017).
What am I?
After a rather exhausting period of research and self-reflection, including discussions with my children, peers and colleagues I am conclusively able to state that I am, as stated in my introduction, a technology enthusiast tempered by some skepticism. Most of my skepticism is based on lack of equity of computer usage and availability in all schools, implementation practices that provide both teacher and student support, promotion of open-ended, student-centered learning and the use of technology to enhance this type of learning, and safety for students in their learning environment. As such, my enthusiasm to embrace technology in education is guarded. I desire the use of technology so that it can create a robust, imaginative, motivational engagement in learning. I worry that systems are not in place to properly manage and activate the learning that is required – including the need to embrace change in pedagogy and teacher learning.
I agree with enthusiasts Thomas & Brown (2011, Chap. 3, pg. 3) that “change motivates and challenges” and “forces us to learn differently” which “means moving forward to what will come next and “viewing the future as a set of new possibilities.” Innovation is necessary and can move us forward if we choose to use it wisely. Our skepticism must be used not as a barrier but to rigorously and carefully create the change that is required instead of trying to halt the inevitable. We cannot deny that technology is important and in an ever changing world we must embrace the use of technology and make sure it is implemented in our schools in a way that benefits students, teachers and school environments (Davis, 2017; Herold, 2016; Richardson & Postman, 2013). How are these systems organized and navigated within a school so that scaffolding is providing to promote digital learning and literacy for everyone in the school community? That is the big question for me and one that needs to be addressed across the board before a I can become a full blown enthusiast.
Note: in creating a website and writing this blog post as part of a course in technology for a PhD in Education Leadership, I have stretched my own technological capacity to learn and grow and have been both buoyed and thwarted by various aspects of the learning process. The enthusiast in me is determined to soldier on, the skeptic is a constant voice in the background encouraging me to take it slow. Who knows what the future brings – I envision only the best. What is your experience with technology and how has it influenced the way you think about technology and education?
Collins, A., & Halverson, R. (2018). Rethinking education in the age of technology: The digital revolution and schooling in America. Teachers College Press. (chapter 2 and chapter 3 )
Davis, M. (2017). The future of classroom technology: Five ed-tech experts weigh in. Education Week, (35). Retrieved from http://ezproxyles.flo.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=edsgao&AN=edsgcl.496922517&site=eds-live&scope=site
Herold, B. (2016). Technology in education: An overview. Education Week. Retrieved from http://www.edweek.org/ew/issues/technology-in-education
Richardson, W., & Postman, N. (2013). Students first, not stuff. Educational Leadership, 70(6). Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/mar13/vol70/num06/Students-First,-Not-Stuff.aspx
Thomas, D., & Brown, J.S. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change (Vol. 219). Lexington, KY: CreateSpace. (chapter 3 and chapter 9).
Wilson, J. (Photographer). 2011, Sept 3. Molly Siegel and Christian Dedman, both 7, worked together with a laptop during a class in the Kyrene School District in Arizona (digital image). Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/04/technology/technology-in-schools-faces-questions-on-value.html