My first encounter with technology would have been the incubator I was placed in when I was born, but my first experience with technology that I can recall is getting the NES and loading up Mario Bros. Even back then I was surrounded by technology like the telephone (rotary dial), television, radio, etc.
When I think of technology I think of some type of engineering project that was created to help perform some sort of task. That encompasses almost everything around me right now as I type this blog. What then is ‘educational’ technology? I would describe it as any item of technology that can be used to help with learning. That’s still a pretty broad category of items, but I believe that educational technology is a vast category. When you mention the term educational technology I’m sure most thoughts quickly go to things such as digital projectors and smartboards and the like, but chalkboards and overhead projectors fit in that category as well. Many teachers would say that they resist using educational technologies in their classroom and as we mentioned in last week’s class, some wear that as a badge of honour. They don’t resist using technology though. They just resist newer technologies. I think that change is difficult for a lot of us and hence the reluctance to try new things. I bring this up though because I feel that the use of educational technology has almost been branded as this binary choice, you use technology or you don’t and you have to place yourself on one side of the line. I tend to not like binary choices. I prefer to view most issues on a continuum, and I feel it is dangerous to view many issues as a binary choice, and in this instance, when you view educational technology as a binary choice we label ourselves as pro or con and we therefore judge technologies or utilize (or not) based off of how we have labeled ourselves. When we view items such as a chalkboard as a piece of educational technology, even the most traditional of teachers can see themselves as utilizers of educational technologies and it can perhaps help dissipate their self-identification as an anti-technologist.
In Erin’s blog ‘Technology is Interwoven’ she says, “I have many friends and colleagues ask (me) how I have time to incorporate technology into my teaching and I’ve come to learn that it shouldn’t be viewed as an additional item to fit in. I don’t have “computer time” within my classroom but rather, it is integrated into everyday aspects of my day”. I tend to agree with this philosophical approach towards educational technology. Technology has existed in education for a long time relatively seamlessly; there was no ‘blackboard time’ or ‘overhead projector time’. Only now, with newer technologies do we seem to try and make a conscious effort to utilize some of them for a variety of different reasons. Heidi also comments on this issue when she states, “Technology doesn’t teach. The teacher uses technology as a tool for teaching”. We ultimately need to come back to the question of, ‘How can I best teach this?’ and then decide on which technology, if any, we use to meet that goal. Again, by not looking at technology as this binary choice, we can view it as a continuum and dabble here and there as we see fit.
Neil Postman’s article ‘Five Things We Need To Know About Technological Change’ includes his first idea that technology provides us with a trade off. It offers us something, but that something will also take away from somewhere else. For example, recording audio from a lecture allows us to focus on what’s being said and not have to worry about taking notes, but there is also great value in having to process a lecture and write about it in your own, concise wording. I agree with this. When I’ve talked about economics with students we’ve talked about opportunity cost and that’s exactly what this is. There is a cost to our decisions. As teachers, I think we need to be consciously aware of what are the advantages and disadvantages inherent in using a particular technology and weigh these factors when deciding how to go about ones instruction. This may also help us with our choices of technology to provide a balanced approach to skill development.
This is my 4th edtech class, and my thinking about these issues has been greatly clarified throughout these courses. I used to view technology as…well, I don’t know how to really explain it, perhaps more of an end than a means? I think that the clarity that I have gained has made me a much better teacher. I no longer look at different educational technologies and say, “Oh, I have to use x technology today”. I look at what my objective is for the day and say, “How can I best help my students understand this? What technologies can help me get there?”
It will be bittersweet when I finish taking these edtech classes as they have helped me become a better teacher in my mind. However, through these courses I have been introduced to educational technologies such as Twitter that I know I can tap into to always keep learning.
Live long and prosper