2 June 2013

Transformational Technologies

According to a report by the International ICT Literacy Panel, Digital Transformation: A Framework for ICT Literacy (2002), technology, particularly ICT,

"fundamentally changes the way we live, learn, and work. As a result of these changes, technology tools, and the creative application of technology, have the capacity to increase the quality of people's lives by improving the effectiveness of teaching and learning, the productivity of industry and governments, and the well-being of nations" (3).

This week, I have been asked to focus on the transforming power of technology by thinking about three technologies invented since World War II that have impacted on me and the way we think, learn, work, solve problems, and communicate. As teaching is what I spend most of time doing, thinking, talking, reading or writing about, my technologies are directly linked to the impact within this field. Roblyer and Doering say, "Teachers will always be more important than technology" and emphasise that "technically possible does not equal desirable, feasible, or inevitable" (2013, p. 10). In other words, it is the specific use of the technology that renders the technology transformative, not the technology itself. After all, a hammer can be used to build a house or break a window. If we are to use technologies effectively in the classroom, we need to know how these technologies can transform - or at least have an important impact on - how and what students learn.

Laptops

Xerox Notetaker
Whilst the laptops I am referring to are the light and powerful machines that exist today, in terms of the four eras of digital technologies outlined by Roblyer and Doering, they land within the realm of ‘The Microcomputer Era’ beginning in the later 1970s (p.7, p.8), as the first ‘portable’ machine, the Xerox Notetaker, was in existence in 1976 (“Personal Computers” on ‘Computer History’, n.d.).

Laptops are transformative because they allow BYOD or 1:1 programmes to be feasible. This is significant in terms of education for a number of reasons. Laptops are so easily transportable that learners can carry them in their backpacks as easily as a couple of textbooks. Having a personal machine is beneficial over using labs or shared machines as privacy is increased, settings are personalised, saving is less problematic and learners have access at school and at home allowing the learning to blend between these two environments. It means teachers can save, edit and work at home and at school - or at the coffee shop, or on cover in another class.

Reading ‘Table 1.2: Types of Technology Facilities and How They Are Used’ (2013, p.12) Roblyer and Doering outline the pros and cons of different computer setups in education, ranging from lab-based to classroom machines. However, 1:1 systems allowed through the advent of laptops, trumps all of these and I would add a further row to the ‘Classroom Computers’ section of the table outlining the 1:1 programme. The uses are exponential; whole-class participation, small group and individual work is afforded with no-one being left out; all lessons and resources can become Internet based and accessible 24 hours a day (Internet access allowing). The benefits are that all learners have computers set up and saved for their own needs with their own work, apps, bookmarks etc. Limitations and problems are mainly in terms of control; teachers need to train learners to balance and use tools that are appropriate for needs; copy and paste becomes and issue; social networking and ensuring learners are on task is paramount (but exciting and engaging lessons means learners don’t need to go there!). Teaching using the 1:1 system has changed everything for me and they way I think about teaching and learning.

Google Apps for Education/Cloud-Based Applications

Google Apps For Education (GAFE) have changed the way I teach. I have left behind the regular everyday - albeit dedicated - teacher who wrote paper based lesson plans that instructed me what to do TO my learners for one who has learners at the core. Sure I used technology every now and then; sure, I used presentations and the odd web based game when I had access to the IT lab - but my practise had developed little since training 8 or 9 years prior to discovering these tools.

Upon starting at a 1:1 school, my eyes were opened to online lessons. However, my first experience was of a clunky platform that stifled rather than helped aid communication and delivery. It was only upon the discovery of GAFE that my whole world changed - it was as if I had been waiting my whole career to find a programme and system like this.

As someone who spends a lot of time over planning and developing units, having GAFE as a platform means I can collect everything together. My units are now fully developed, interactive online units that allow for collaborative and interactive learning. Most importantly, when discussing how this technology has been transformative, my lessons are now written FOR my learners - my audience has changed and my approach has changed. I have the learner at the forefront of my teaching, not me; it is not about what I do, it is about what they do. No longer do I write a scheme of work on a piece of paper directing me what to do, I write interactive, online, media-rich websites that learners can access 24 hours a day. This is important - this means they can keep up even when absent and review as and when needed. This is the most important element to me along with the ability to collaborate - this is the future of education and employment; we have to teach learners how to work together synchronously and asynchronously. GAFE allows all this. Cloud-based systems are great for teachers and learners to co-construct learning.

iPhone

Roblyer and Doering state in their Preface that whilst technology can be viewed as some as an ‘invader here to confuse and complicate’ (2013, p.xvii) our lives, I believe that actually, technology is the result of our constant campaign to free up time, to make our lives easier and to help us be more productive.

The iPhone is the embodiment of this to me. An iPhone goes beyond the incredible possibilities that cell phones provided in terms of communication, and enters the realm of my being able to be connected and have the world at my fingertips. Wherever I am, I can find out where I am, where I want to go, what is near. I can photograph it and share this with the world in seconds. I can find out how to get to somewhere else, where to eat or get a haircut. I can read my emails, mark my learners’ work and pay my bills. I have not explored the use of iPhones - or smart phones - much in my lessons yet, but they truly fit into our tranformational notion of technology as the most recent ‘mobile’ era (2013, p9).

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References:
Katherine Woodward, Professor UMUC and course leader Foundations in Technology and Teaching, Masters in Eduction and Integration Technology

Roblyer, M.D. & Doering, A.H. (2013). Integrating Educational Technology Into Teaching. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.