You may have seen the recent Wall Street Journal article Technology in Classrooms Doesn’t Always Boost Education Results. Author Ben Kesling, summarizes the OECD report, “Beefing up technology in the classroom doesn’t always lead to better education for children…”. This well thought out article and summation of the report spawned quite a bit of sensationalism in the press and social media. But neither bothered to delve into the details of the report nor its focus areas.
According to Kesling, “The report suggested that ‘we have not yet become good enough at the kind of pedagogues that make the most of technology; that adding 21st century technologies to 20th century teaching practices will just dilute the effectiveness of teaching”. The observation that technology is a tool that requires proper planning and implementation as well as significant effort to adapt pedagogies to leverage and harness the power of the tool is evidenced by schools and Districts that have achieved some documented success in student engagement and measureable increases in learning outcomes. When institutions properly implement technology into the learning environment as a tool, while identifying, propagating and supporting pedagogical models that teachers can assimilate and students can consume and beneficially use, success more often than not will occur. Since the article and the OECD report looks primarily at online and use factors that do not differentiate content from pedagogies from device types to specific geographies. For purposes of discussion, let’s focus on K-12 education in the U.S since this is the largest tranche of students impacted and is made up of mostly large districts that don’t have the ability to turn away students when speaking of public school districts. We will also put aside, for purposes of this discussion, issues and challenges related to institutional challenges around models to close the digital divide (1:1’s, BYOD/BYOT, Interoperability, etc.) as these were not a focus of the OECD report. For full benefit of advancing pedagogical practices to leverage technology tools and for student engagement and outcomes, the best practices for the models today are a reality and requirement.
Too often in the past, educational institutions have treated technology (and in the context of both the report and article, we will put group/small group technology like Interactive White Boards and polling/formative assessment “clickers” to the side for now and focus on student’s online/personal use of internet-enabled devices) as an additive to be bolted on to current pedagogy. This too often involves using the technology for what could be defined as 3 broad areas with diminishing impacts to educational outcomes. These 3 broad categories or clusters of practice could be loosely defined as:
· Educational: Content creation, research/web-quests/reference
· Supplemental: Fluency, time-on-task and “learning facts” games
· Administrative: grade-books, attendance, homework distribution, online agenda
journals, parental/guardian pull portals and the like
While the Educational cluster of practice does have positive impacts on engagement and learning outcomes, they can be onerous and time consuming for faculty (content creation/OER) to assimilate into their pacing and lesson plans initially and when one considers non-departmentalized teachers and classes, preparing these practices for multiple curricula for numerous lessons is extensive. This not only slows adoption, but can lead to lower value learning objects and elements when these may not be curated to the extent needed to ensure valid instruction occurs as a result. Specific to content creation in an internet connected or technology tools learning environment, further challenges can arise in modality selection best practices, instructional design and instructional psychology inclusion. Appealing to digital native students through the use of tools and media they use every day is a positive and the increasing use of blended learning for web quests, research and Supplemental use is predominant today. As the OECD report points out (along with the U.S. student results on international standardized testing), these practices and inclusion into the learning environment do not necessarily lead to greater learning outcomes.
Part 2 of 3, coming soon!