Bigun (2012), Cox (2012), November (2009, March 30) and Voogt, Knezek, Cox, Knezek & ten Brummelhuis (2011) paint a diverse and sobering picture of the realities of integrating technology in the classroom.
Bigun (2012) paints a cynically humorous picture in which he characterises most educators as naïve optimists who seek to fit technology to existing school models. He also characterises educators as either nihilists who see little point to trying to integrate technology because the whole system is going to be turned on its head anyway or pragmatists who envision a proliferation of thinking and doing school differently. Fitting technology to existing models is ascribed by Begun to a natural human tendency to frame new ideas within known parameters. This tendency is illustrated with the analogy of the Papuan who returns to his home village and explains the first lunar landing by the Apollo Mission. His people listen incredulously and then ask whether the journey was made for pigs or women and whether the astronauts were Roman Catholics or Seventh Day Adventists. The point that Begun makes about fitting technology to existing models is that it limits improvements in educational outcomes and, in some cases, the technology may be no better than an expensive white elephant. It is doubtful that a do-nothing nihilist could survive in a senior educational role but one suspects that Begun has some sympathy for the strategy. Begun does suggest that pragmatists who envision a proliferation of thinking and doing school differently may be onto something but, disappointingly, he does not explore the concept further.
Voogt et al. (2012) attempt to make sense of how best to integrate technology in the classroom by synthesising research into a number of concrete actions. They find, for example, that sustainable implementation of technology requires schools to set a strong connection between pedagogical aims and technology, to have strong leadership, to aim for school-wide adoption, to focus on process and to collaborate with external partners. They also observe that schools with innovative technology practices all had a strong emphasis on student independence and responsibility for their own learning and had restructured their school to realise that vision. The authors leave little doubt that they believe that capturing the positive effects of technology on teaching and learning is dependent on radically restructuring schools. In practice capturing the benefits of technology in the vast majority of schools is likely to be slow and incremental as they adapt to technology rather than radically restructuring themselves.
Newhouse (2015) contends that the relationship between technology and learning outcomes is complex and postulates that there are attributes of learning environments that may be enhanced by the integration of technology with a consequent improvement in learning outcomes. He lists the following examples: using to investigate the real world and solve real problems (Jonassen, 2008 as cited in Newhouse); using technology to build broader and deeper knowledge by giving students autonomy to use their own ideas and concepts (Jonassen, 2008; Scarmadalia and Bereiter, 1996, both cited in Newhouse); using technology to give opportunities for students to be more active and learn by doing (Freeman, Eddy, McDonough, Smith, Okroafor, Jordt and Wederoth, 2014; Jonassen, 2008, both cited in Newhouse); using technology to promote authentic assessment (U.S. Department of Education, 2013 as cited in Newhouse); using technology to engage students by challenge and motivation; using technology to increase student productivity by reducing the number of repetitive, low-level thinking activities (Dede, 2008: Kulik, 2003, booth cited in Newhouse); using technology to scaffold high-level thinking such as problem solving, analysis, deduction and synthesis of knowledge (Jonassen, 2008; Hansen, Koudenburg, Hiersemann, Tellegen, Kocsev and Postmes, 2012, both cited in Newhouse); using technology to increase learner independence and opportunities for students to learn at their own pace (Alagic, 2004; Deaney, Ruthven and Hennessey, 2006, both cited in Newhouse); using technology to increase collaboration and cooperation and thus developing richer learning communities (Garcia-Valcarcel, Basilotta and Lopez, 2014; Jonassen 2008, both cited in Newhouse); using technology to tailor learning to the individual student’s needs using computer managed learning systems (Dede, 2008: U.S. Department of Education, 2013, both cited in Newhouse); and using technology to assist students with special needs using what are referred to as ‘assistive technologies’ (Quinn, Behrmann, Mastropieri and Chung, 2009 as cited in Newhouse).
Cox (2012) highlights the complexities of evaluating the effectiveness of e-learning given its dynamic and eclectic nature and the growing influence of informal learning on e-learning. She recommends a number of approaches to improve research into e-learning. One can also infer from Cox’s article that a measure of caution is warranted in respect to any optimistic conclusions about the positive effects of e-learning. One of the approaches recommended involves establishing communities of connected researchers and practitioners. The concept has merit but practitioners are likely to need the exchange of ideas in such communities to be wider ranging than technology.
November (2009) tells both a cautionary and optimistic tale about technology. He seeks to debunk a number of myths about technology and at the same time encourages listeners to keep an open mind about how students will run with technology. The three myths that November attempts to debunk are: (1) technology is not equalising society but polarising it; (2) technology is not acting to challenge individuals with new ideas but rather allows individuals to filter information and thereby reinforce existing and often limited worldviews; and (3) technology is not a panacea to nurture creativity as witnessed by the growth of a cut-and-paste mentality.
One could add to this list the idea that technology will solve the tyrannies of distance. If anything people with knowledge industry skills are flocking to a small number of global metropolises to exploit their creative talents.
For me the scenes in November’s video brought back fond memories of Marblehead, Massachusetts, a wealthy, well-preserved, historical port. It is about an hour’s drive north of Boston where I lived for two years in the 1990s. November’s views told from the foreshore highlights the degree to which technology is fundamentally changing society in both positive, negative, and unexpected ways. November raises issues that we as teachers should consider as we teach tomorrow’s netizens.
In conclusion, these pictures suggest that schools that best capture the positive effects of technology are those with strong and visionary leadership matched by strong organisational capability and flexibility. Reflecting on how most educational institutions could be characterised as conservative and risk averse it is therefore not surprising that William Gibson as cited in Bigun states, “the future is here it is just not evenly distributed yet.”
Bigum, C. (2012). Schools and computers: Tales of a digital romance. In Rowan, L., & Bigum, C. (Eds.), Transformative Approaches to New Technologies and Student Diversity in Futures Oriented Classrooms: Future Proofing Education (pp. 15-28). Dordrecht, NL: Springer. Retrieved from http://www.ebrary.com.ezproxy.csu.edu.au
Cox, M.J. (2013), Formal to informal learning with IT: Research challenges and issues for e-learning. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 29, 85–105. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2729.2012.00483.x
Newhouse, C. (2015). Measuring the meaningful use of ICT in schools: learning environments attributes approach. International Journal of Technology Enhanced Learning, Vol. 7(4), pp.310-323. Retrieved January 14th, 2017 from CSU Library.
November, A. [November Learning]. (2009). Myths and opportunities: Technology in the classroom [Video]. Retrieved from https://vimeo.com/3930740
Voogt, J., Knezek, G., Cox, M., Knezek, D. & ten Brummelhuis, A. (2011). Under which conditions does ICT have a positive effect on teaching and learning? A Call to Action. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 29, 4–14. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2729.2011.00453.x