Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Technology and Pedagogy

by Karen Hamilton - Wednesday, 5 August 2009, 09:13 pm

Integrating Technology

I certainly agree with Cuban and Fishman that the student-centred teacher who is more inquiry-oriented is more likely to integrate technology into teaching, but I’m not sure that I can whole heartedly agree that the traditional teacher will not be at all influenced to integrate technology. Both Cuban and Becker talk about the importance of a person’s teaching philosophy. The teachers who adopt technology to enhance teaching tend to be the constructivists.

Who is Right? Who is Wrong? It ain't Black and White

Firstly if we did assume that there are only two categories or even three if we accept some are in the middle, we are making too many assumptions from my point of view. Maybe we can categorize people to a certain extent but to assume that some will never change isn’t that positive and it’s a bit too defeatist to me. In the Liberal Arts department where I work, we have an overwhelming number of what I would consider “traditional” teachers. Some of them are older, but certainly some are young. If we accept the proposition that all these traditionalists are hopelessly stuck in their old ways, are we saying they are not good teachers? Are we saying we should ship them off to a leper colony?

I consider myself to be a tech junkie; I want to learn everything that I can, try things see what works; but does that mean I am right? Not really.

For sure 100% I’m going to try to convert people, but I’m not about to make the assumption that technology is everybody’s answer. And I’m not going to suggest that some of these decidedly old school teachers are not good teachers because I think some of them are good teachers. Yes I laugh at the teacher who says he does not believe in any of the technology and says he’d never use Powerpoint and he makes a presentation to faculty by projecting a word document and projecting his typing on the screen.

But even he has progressed to projecting Word so that’s a small step- he just doesn’t see it.

We need a Champion! and A Few Baby Steps

I say never underestimate the power of the champion and the group. On page 137 when Cuban is going over the history of older technologies being introduced he talks about the small group that banded together to beg for funds. He says, “These champions of technology influenced peers.” And Becker says, “ Building up computer expertise of teachers also may produce greater use of the internet; as would more training for teachers to use the internet. However, it is the remaining “condition” in our list that is the most intriguing-frequent informal contact with other teachers at their school.” (33)

The history of my Liberal Studies group is long and storied. We’ve been a division, been split apart and 2 years ago put back together again. Long ago when we were a division we were not liked by the programs. Some thought we were the extra stuff that took away from the real meaning of their programs. Inside my group many thought, they were the superior- the academics. When we were torn apart and put into the divisions, many whined and complained until they put us in a group again.

 When we were first reformulated we had a new chair so we had a chance for a new beginning. We had an image problem. I was making podcasts for my courses at the time, so I said to my chair why don’t we all try to be leaders in the college by creating video introductions to our courses. I was even offering to sit down with each of them and do 90% of the work. We held some sessions and generally they saw that there might be some advantage. Maybe it wasn’t a great success. We ended up with 3-4 other people who had video introductions and I did a lot of the work but it was a beginning. The problem as always was that people just didn’t have the time and yes some were more resistant than others, but I at least had them considering it, so it’s my belief that it rubs off a little all that enthusiasm. Like the Zhao article said a little step. One of the most resistant of the whole group was a woman who really isn’t old. No way she was having any of it. She had her ways and that was it. But wouldn’t you know she came around and last year she created an online course. So maybe she wasn’t quite as much of a traditionalist after all. Or did she evolve? Or has the group started to experience a shift even if it is slight?

You Can't Force 'em!

I have to agree that you can’t force people to use technology. A few years ago we were granted the ability to have degree programs, so the division I was in created a degree program . They wanted to introduce a laptop program, even though a large chunk of the faculty were not that computer savvy. I was  not affiliated with that program so I got to watch how it played out. As Fishman points out the numbers that some try to say prove technology is happening is “all about stuff.” (1) The degree program was trying to prove how forward they were because they had a laptop program. The tech resistant ended up with a page in WebCT and that’s about it. Others did adapt, but it’s a gradual process. Is one page posted in WebCT technology? Not really, so I can agree it can’t be forced, but I’m not sure there’s no chance to influence them especially if they can see a real advantage.

One of the people in my office is really pretty low tech almost no-tech guy. I saw him at the scantron making music with the sound of wrong answers. I commented that it didn’t sound good and then mentioned I hadn’t seen a scantron in 6 years. His ears perked up. That was how it started. Just this semester I helped him put all his tests online. Wow was he happy, and now he’s off trying to convince the guy in the next office. I asked him how the testing went and he told me about how he had time in his class to do more things instead of wasting time in class on tests.

Do Technology Plans link to Learning Goals?

Fishman also makes note of how technology plans don’t link to learning goals. At my college we have had an e-learning plan and policy for a number of years, so perhaps we are the rare group he speaks of. He makes a good point when he suggests that learning how to use technology is not equal to learning how to teach with technology. Our school has a PD site that is loaded with things that one can learn. Maybe it’s good to have a million courses on how to use Powerpoint for some, but I’d have to agree that, that really isn’t teaching teachers how to use the technology to enhance learning. We do tend to focus on the “learn this technology” types of things over the how to make it work in learning.

 Is a School a Business?

When Cuban talked about the infiltration of business into education, this resonated with me. College management these days has adopted the language of business in a frightening way and success is measured in dollars and cents. Everything is framed to prove we do a great job. When figures are posted about students who get jobs after graduation. But do the figures mention the quality of the jobs? Is it possible that a business grad is working at McDonalds. I don’t think it’s the norm but it happens and when colleges and universities frame things this way is it any wonder that students demand something more that just an education. Some demand a darn good job. There’s this story this week where a student of Monroe college is suing because after graduation she didn’t get a job http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aubt23xrL0E Is it any wonder?

Motives for Adopting New Tech

Cuban also talks about the motives for this drive to use technology. Often it’s an attempt to be more efficient to save money. Right now there are space problems in many colleges so there is this big push to move some courses online or create new ones. Is this push really to serve the needs of students or the money needs. If these were well qualified teachers writing courses who had expertise in online teaching, maybe it wouldn’t seem so, but it can be that part time workers may be creating “online” courses when they have never taught online, taken an online course or even taken any courses about online learning. This is alarming especially when you consider that some of these courses may be  no more than a bunch of links and downloaded pages and assignments that are sent through email. Right now many schools are  trying to set up some step by step process where courses have to be vetted well before they ever run. Sometimes you have a teacher who decides, hey wouldn’t it be nice to stay at home another day, why don’t I put my course online. This isn’t a good motive. The consequence is in many places that the numbers look good- look at all the online courses- but what about the learning experience?

Innovators and Early Adopters

The Cuban article also talked about the slow integration, Innovators and early adopters. This reminded me of the Technology Adoption Cycle http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technology_adoption_lifecycle Marketer’s love these lifecycles and bell curves and maybe there’s a reason- things do have natural lifecycles, so to expect some giant leap just isn’t reasonable. Cuban also points out that the people who might use the technology are not the ones who make the decisions about what is adopted, or management buys into something meant for business. This is a problem that happens in lots of industries like they mention with engineers who make applications fit. Extremely disturbing was the doctor who went to the computer to check the stats on whether the person would be better at home or in hospital and the mention of sending the patient home and “saving her insurer” (148) Humans have become commodities. We are all just statistics. Maybe the student who didn’t get a job after graduation from Monroe College feels like that statistic. She was promised that x% of students get jobs after x amount of time after graduation.

The Becker article had more meaning for me towards the end when it focused on constructivist ideas. It seemed almost funny reading about modems and teachers not knowing how to search on the “world wide web.”They seemed to have picked some strange ways to break out their information, especially when they mentioned GPA and what school someone went to. To me the value judgments there were a bit disturbing. They seemed to try to deconstruct everything. I wondered why they didn’t do different statistics for men and women. Would that have just been too loaded?

Measuring Success

I guess the biggest problem for me in all this is how do you measure the success of using technology. Do we say things are successful only if students’ grades increase? I hope not.

Can we really measure what anyone gets out of school? A student can get mediocre grades but still be a great success, maybe it was the teacher who understood what the fanfic, or manga or machinima was all about, maybe it was the teacher who listened, maybe it was a moment where a teacher wrote something on an old-fashioned chalk board.

Like we’ve heard, it’s not about the technology, it’s whatever we do with it.

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