Thursday, October 2, 2008

Let's stop blaming technology

Every now and again, an article about the perceived failure of technology in schools to realize the anticipated, expected promise of improved student learning and achievement crosses into my radar. I typically dismiss these articles because they usually present flawed and incomplete arguments, and/or fail to recognize the complexity of the situation. One of these articles, by Mark Bauerlein, crossed my virtual desk today -- Online Literacy Is a Lesser Kind - Slow reading counterbalances Web skimming -- and I am compelled to reflect. Here are my thoughts regarding the assumptions that often underlie the "failure of technology in the classroom" argument:

(a) Access to technology equates to effective instructional use of technology and appropriate integration of technology. The one thing teachers and students can tell us is that putting computers with Internet access in the classroom doesn't lead to automatic academic enhancements. In fact, without attending to infrastructure -- faculty and student training, instructional approaches and strategies, incentives and rewards, assessment and accountability, and the like -- technology can serve as a distraction, and derail attention to student learning and achievement. When schools do attend to infrastructure, then technology can be integrated with positive results. Not only for student learning and achievement, but to enhance students' motivation to learning, prepare students to use technology in productive ways (to support inquiry, knowledge construction, communication and collaboration, and expression), connect students and faculty to the world outside of the classroom, and reenergize teachers' instructional practice. That's pretty powerful stuff...but, cannot occur by only providing access.

(b) All content on the Web should be read and processed in the same way as content in books, articles, and print in general. If that's the case, then the Internet becomes just a way to deliver print instead of something that is unique, giving us a different view on and way to work with content. Thinking about my own use of the Web, when I want to to quickly gather ideas and information, then I scan Web content (following the "F pattern" -- or the like -- described in Bauerlein's article). But, if my purpose for access Web content requires deeper processing, then I approach the Web (and other resources, regardless of format) differently. So, context and purpose is an important aspect of this discussion, not addressed in the article.

(c) The problem is technology. I am so tired of this argument. Have the machines finally taken over as predicted by the Terminator movies? This is insulting to educators because it assumes that we don't use tools based on our expertise. As if a tool is just plunked into our classrooms, and we blindly use it (or not) without any consideration of student learning and achievement. Instead, the issue has to do with how educators use technology, and our need to address technology and information literacy in our classrooms. We need to help students (and our colleagues sometimes) learn how to use technology and online resources appropriately. This is not a failure of technology, but a failure of attending to the appropriate integration and use of technology and a failure to support educators in this endeavor (via training, support services, learning communities, strategies, resources, and TIME).

Now is the time to get real about technology and information literacy. We need to prepare students for their professions and for a world that increasingly uses technology in all aspects of daily function. Let's focus our attention on improving student learning and achievement, using all of the tools we have available to us.

Thanks for listening.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't it be lovely if this was send as response to the chronicle? :)