Module 2 – Reflections on videos and why we use technology in the classroom

In Module 2 we are presented with two videos representing tangentially different perspectives of the use of technology in the classroom. In the first video (Education Everywhere Series, 2012 March 15) we observe a Singapore high school in which technology is fully embraced; we are shown scenes of highly engaged students performing a range of tasks using technology. In the second video (CNN, 20012, March 14) we observe a school in Silicon Valley in which there is no technology in the classroom. The first video is stereotypically Singapore. The focus is on new facilities, dutiful students and teachers expounding the virtues of a technology. Yes, the teachers! Not a peep from the students! We observe, for example, a bizarre scene in which students in a class relay questions to a teacher using a networking app rather than holding up hands and asking questions. The teacher thinks this is marvelous! The second video is a stereotypically new-age California. We observe students interacting socially and a lovely student then tells us how cool it is to feel connected to her fellow students!

In all seriousness these are great schools notwithstanding my tongue-in-cheek jibes. Leadership and teachers at the Singapore school have undoubtedly worked hard to integrate technology and enrich the quality of student learning; they are paragons of passion and commitment. This being Singapore however there is little evidence that students have greater independence or responsibility for their own learning. The technology-free school in Silicon Valley holds few lessons for those of us living mortal lives in much less affluent communities. These students may not use technology in the classroom but they probably live highly privileged lives filled with rich experiences that the vast bulk of children will never experience.

There are many reasons why technology has a role to play in the classroom: Roblyer & Doering (2014, p.36) highlight the need to teach 21st century ”learning to learn” skills such as thinking creatively and reasoning effectively and how these skills are increasingly intertwined with technological literacy, information literacy and visual literacy; for many students the classroom is the only place that they will have to develop these 21st century skills that will serve them in adult life and employment; November (2009, March 30) also highlights the need to engage students using technology to expand their worldviews.

References

CNN (Producer). (2012, 14 March). Silicon Valley school with no computers [Video file].  Retrieved November 2, 2016 from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fUxLKik3zNA

Education Everywhere Series (Producer). (2012, 15 March). Singapore’s 21st Century Teaching Strategies [Video file]. Retrieved November 2, 2016 from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M_pIK7ghGw4

November, A. [November Learning]. (2009, March 30). Myths and opportunities: Technology in the classroom [Video file]. Retrieved from https://vimeo.com/3930740

Roblyer, M., & Doering, A.H. (2014). Integrating educational technology into teaching: Sixth Edition. Essex, UK: Pearson Education.

Module 2 – The challenges involved in integrating technology in the classroom?

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.”

References

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

Module 1 – Thinking about Technology

In the Australian Broadcasting Corporation podcast, Future Tense: 21st Century Education, (Davies, 2016) Greg Whitby, the Director of Catholic Education in Western Sydney, claims that the focus on technology is a “waste of time”. He says, “If you focus on the technology, you ignore the central problem and the central issue.” Whitby is making the point that the focus of integrating technology should not be on the technology per se but on applications and how they can improve teaching and learning.

The themes of the podcast can be summarised by the following comments by the interviewer, Antony Funnell, “Technology doesn’t educate people, people educate people,”  and, “It’s a matter of balance.” Interviewees emphasise the point made by Fennell that it is important not be seduced by the glitter of the gadget but to remain focused on delivering quality education.

Funnell’s interview of Paul Callaghan, the Director of The Free Play Independent Games Festival was particularly interesting. Callahan uses the neologism, gamification, to describe how learning opportunities can be structured as games that facilitate cognitive learning. Callaghan makes the point however that there are limits to which learning can be structured as games; important life skills such as resilience may not be able to be successfully learnt using games.

The podcast leaves little doubt about the challenge and complexity of integrating a vast array of technologies and applications to improve learning outcomes including teacher training. Teachers will undoubtedly continue to play a key role in education as posited by Fennell but their role will change as technology and applications become increasingly pervasive. In this respect I am drawn to what Roblyer & Doering (2016, p.36) describe as the switch to “learning to learn” skills  and the three forms of literacy that are thread through all 21st century learning: technological literacy, information literacy and visual literacy.

References

Davies, A. (Producer). (2016, August 19). Future Tense: 21st Century Education [Podcast]. Retrieved from http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/futuretense/21st-century-education/419770#transcript

Roblyer, M., & Doering, A.H. (2014). Integrating educational technology into teaching: Sixth Edition. Essex, UK: Pearson Education.

Module 1 – Introductions

Greetings

My name is Simon. I am in my 50s and have changed tack to teach science after a career in banking. You will note from the image that I am living in Shanghai where I teach chemistry and economics at an international high school. Students at my school are in Years 9 to 11. They then move onto a school in Canada for Year 12 and from there to university in Canada or the US.

This is the last subject for my Bachelor of Teaching other than a final professional placement which I still have to work out how, when and where I will do.

I have 21 months teaching experience: 6 months in Australia as a casual teacher at an Anglican high school outside Sydney and 15 months in China. The transition to teaching was initially difficult. My classroom management during my first placement was terrible: it just felt alien and awkward telling students how to behave. I have now developed the art of switching instantly between relaxed humanism and iron-handed authoritarianism. I love teaching science and hope to inspire my students to go on and do wonderful things such as solving some of the universe’s great mysteries or tackling humanity’s pressing challenges such as climate change and pollution. For those students who do not pursue science as a career I hope to imbue lots of positive values, attitudes and skills. Central to my pedagogy is experiential constructivism; for example, letting students tinker with hands-on projects and experiments in the lab or conduct secondary sourced research in the library. It is however challenging teaching like this in China because education is still wedded to the direct instruction model and there is little support for the resources, including technology, required for experiential, inquiry-based learning.

 The integration of technology is central to my pedagogy. While saying this I am no expert and spend too much of my life frustrated trying to work out how to do new things we these darned gadgets. Technology enhances science learning at a number of levels. Technology can be used to engage; to help picture and learn complex concepts; to provide opportunities for student centred learning; to develop self-directed learning skills; to provide authentic learning experiences; and to manage assessment and reporting. I am looking forward to this subject to deepen my understanding and skills in the integration of technology in my pedagogy. This blog, for example, is a new experience.

School technology in China is basic. There is an old desktop in the classroom, with a projector and screen to show videos and display PowerPoint slides. Something is often broken requiring you to fall back on markers and the whiteboard. The internet is slow and thus streaming of internet content is difficult. You Tube is blocked in China. I have therefore made a collection of videos. There is no classroom Wi-Fi and a limited number of old desktops in the library, some usually out-of-order. I encourage students to use their own devices and have given students a number of open-ended projects to develop their secondary sources research skills. I give students time in the library to develop their self-directed learning skills.

Chinese students are for the most part respectful. The biggest challenge is language. These poor kids are learning science in a second language. Most are capable and hard-working and thrive. Some barely understand what I am saying and need lots of language support including co-teaching with Chinese intern teachers when available. Some students, mostly boys, who struggle with English are disorganised, playful, easily distracted and can be disengaged. They need to be managed with an iron-hand. Don’t ask me why parents put these poor kids through the torture of learning complex subjects such as Chemistry in a language they barely understand!

I enjoy using technology and students respond well to its use. There is however considerable resistance to embracing technology in China in education because, as already mentioned, attitudes to teaching are still locked onto the direct instruction model to prepare students for high stakes exams.

Here is a summary of my use of technology.

  • Personal devices: iPhone and Surface Pro
  • Use a desktop at school
  • Familiar with Charles Sturt’s distance education learning management system
  • Have used an Interactive Whiteboard as a casual teacher
  • Use PowerPoint and videos in class to engage and support learning
  • Use online resources extensively to plan lessons
  • Use interactive online resources such as www.absorblearning.com in class
  • Use library technology resources extensively for student centred learning
  • Use a system at school called Engrade© offered by McGraw Hill Inc. – this is used for administration, planning, assessment, reporting and more

 I am open to new ideas. I would now like to learn how to set up class websites. I am therefore looking forward to learning from my fellow students and sharing ideas.