Importance of Education Technology and How It Accelerates Teaching & Learning
The 19th century vision of the one-room schoolhouse carried over into the 20th, with desks in rows and students writing on slates or notebooks from a "sage on the stage" teacher at the front of the room. Let's be honest, it carried into the 21st century, as well! Educational technology, or EdTech for short, has come into its own over the last 30 years as an incredible opportunity to change this paradigm and to accelerate teaching and learning in new ways. Now that the importance of education technology is clear, you just have to be strong—and brave—enough to embrace it.
EdTech is Changing What Teaching and Learning Looks Like
For too long, we thought EdTech was offering a standalone computer class or giving students computer time in the back of the room on a dinosaur of an Apple IIe. Not knocking it—I had a II+—but this certainly did not represent an integrated approach to technology use in schools.
Technology serves education best when it is the vehicle, not the driver, and when it is used to create new outcomes for students not previously possible with older tools.
Whereas the traditional presentation of material—think textbooks and lectures—can be very difficult for many students, effective EdTech integration makes it possible to be more visual. Whereas traditional student planning and accountability systems can be cumbersome and ineffective, the successful use of a one-stop, centralized learning management system (LMS) for efficiency and effectiveness can help increase student accountability by making it easier for students—and teachers!—to track and complete class assignments and projects.
Choosing Effective EdTech Models
Like anything else, it's not necessarily what EdTech model you and your school decide to use, it's why and how you use it. For example, the University of Kansas School of Education blog mentioned two different EdTech models in a recent post: The SAMR Model and the TPACK Model.
The SAMR Model is like a technological Bloom's Taxonomy or Webb's Depth of Knowledge-style model that attempts to move technology use in the classroom from basic one-to-one substitution of a technology tool for a traditional counterpart—like a word processing program for paper and pencil—to a complete redefinition of the task, such as the creation of a digital mash-up to fulfill a project requirement.
The TPACK Model is more of a framework for how to think about the intersection between an educator's technological knowledge, content knowledge, and knowledge of pedagogy. It represents an opportunity to make education with technology more than the sum of its parts. In a simplified explanation, if you are teaching a lesson, you don't teach the content of the lesson without using effective pedagogy. If you are using EdTech in the lesson, you wouldn't use a technology tool divorced from the content. All three areas must be integrated and thus produce greater results than any one or two other areas alone or in combination with each other.
Whether it's SAMR, TPACK, or some other model or framework, the key is for districts and schools to be purposeful about EdTech, to develop a common vision for what EdTech looks like in classrooms, and to implement that shared vision with fidelity.
The Professional Context Matters
The overwhelming majority of 2018 Global State of Digital Learning Study respondents believe that professional learning communities (PLCs) are effective professional development (PD) tools. EdTech can flourish this type of collaborative, data-based environment in which educators meet to discuss and study student outcomes and best-practice strategies for teaching, learning, and intervention.
You can help EdTech accelerate teaching and learning in your school and/or district by supporting teachers with ongoing, job-embedded professional development that doesn't introduce tech tools in isolation. In other words, we have all experienced PD that presents a technology tool—or ten—that we are told has great benefits for student learning, but when those tools are presented outside of the context of actual student learning, the value can be lost or implementation may never happen.
Let's say you want to roll out a new learning management system across all classrooms. Teachers will surely need to learn the nitty gritty technical skills to actually use the new LMS - how to post files, set up class discussions, issue grades, and so forth - but effective professional development means more. Effective PD would entail allowing teachers to develop a lesson or an entire unit specific to their classroom, then supporting them in piloting what they have created by making time for peer observation, feedback, and additional resources as they prepare to "go live" with the system the following year—and then continuing to support them as that happens.
For two years in a row, the challenge of providing relevant and effective PD is the number one concern for school leaders with regard to the digital state of learning. You must consider the professional context when using EdTech to improve teaching and learning.
Keep Your Foot on the Gas
You are fighting over a century of inertia when it comes to using EdTech to transform teaching and learning in your school and/or district. However, with the right understanding of EdTech's place in education, a collectively embraced model for what that means for the curriculum, and the relentless pursuit of supporting your professionals in implementing the changes, you will succeed in accelerating teaching and learning for all students with the right EdTech attitude and tools.
Now that you know all about the importance of education technology and the effect it has on teaching and learning, share with us how Edtech has helped you on Twitter @Schoology