Sunday, January 17, 2010

Quality Education: Technology


I used to blog for my old company, but they took the blog down. I am
not actually allowed to own the writings I put up on that blog, but as
I reference them on occasion in my writing I am putting those articles
up in my archives here for reference sake. I'll put the tag GS on those
articles noting that they were originally published on the http://schoolfinder.globalscholar.com/blog/


Quality Education:
Technology





Way back during my teacher education I wrote a master’s thesis on technology. The basic conclusion was that technology was a tool, not a fix for education. Of course that
should be obvious, yet even today we have schools, districts,
foundations, and such pouring millions into putting technology into
schools without enough consideration for who is going to use it.





I’m not against technology, obviously, but there has to be a lot of thought and consideration put
into the teachers who use that technology. Teachers I know run the
gamut from completely technologically illiterate to geeks in the best
sense of the word. The problem is no teacher will ever use technology
in the classroom just because it is there, at least not more than
once. Technology has to improve the education that is going on in the
classroom.





During my research on my paper I remember learning that in the fifties many people thought
that films would replace teachers. We now know that showing a movie
in the classroom usually means half the students are going to sleep.
It doesn’t have to be that way, films can be a useful educational
tool. I have even used film, and lately streaming video, to enhance
lessons. It is just so much easier to schedule films for the day you
have a substitute.





Not long after the advent of personal computers many people started thinking that they would
revolutionize education. Many thought that it wouldn’t be long
before a student could learn everything they needed to know from a
computer. Today, you can learn anything you want to on the computer,
much of it for free.





Even though you can learn everything you need to with technology, schools are still going
strong. For some, many students even, education needs to be personal.
Our children not only need to learn the three R’s, reading writing
and arithmetic, but they also need to learn how to learn. They also
need to discover how to interact with peers, how to collaborate,
share, and so much more that requires human interaction. It doesn’t
matter how great the technology teachers will always be needed to not
exactly tailor education to the students, but create the environment
best suited for learning.





So what role does technology play in education? Technology plays a big role in
facilitating education; and it is increasing all the time.





Today, I am in Denver Colorado learning about The Pinnacle GradeBook. (A part of KUE
Digital the parent company of GlobalScholar) Pinnacle is an amazing
piece of software. A grade book of course is a red book
teachers have been using for years to track student progress and
determine if they have achieved mastery of the subjects being taught.
The Pinnacle Gradebook does that, plus helps keep learning and
teaching organized, plus allows teachers, administrators, students,
and parents to track the students learning in almost real time.





This technology doesn’t give information that couldn’t be learned using paper and pencil,
but it does provide the information within seconds after entering
grades. It gives this information fast enough and with hardly any
effort that it can be used in the classroom on a daily basis to
improve instruction.





The real test of the technology though is will it be used by teachers. In this case it is,
in this case the use of Pinnacle GradeBook is as easy, if not easier
to use than a paper and pencil grade book. Will it be used by
teachers? Yes, it will. Will every teacher use GradeBook to it’s
full extent? No, but each year they might want to add a bit more to
what they used the year before.





When technology becomes a tool that teachers can and will use in the classroom. When technology increases the quality of education in the classroom. When technology
is more of a help than a hindrance. That is when it becomes a part of
the fabric of education in this country.





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2 comments:

Jeffrey Fujioka said...

You bring up some excellent points. I am currently finishing my teacher certification program and am student teaching at a high school in Michigan. I agree that technology is a tool for educators and won't easily replace educators. Even if it doesn't replace teacher though, I do wonder if the use of technology will allow a teacher to have more students in a classroom at once. I know that alot of teachers would love to have small classes where they can really focus on just a few students' needs, but with school districts that don't want to hire another teacher, they may add more technology, hoping to improve a teacher's efficiency, and shove more students into the room. In fact, some of the teachers who fit in the "geek" catagory may really enjoy designing a learning environment that, through the effective use of technology, may be able to cater to the individual needs of a lot of students at once!

I also think you bring up a good point about whether or not teachers will use the technology. Technology isn't very useful when it's sitting in a corner collecting dust! In doing some reading for my teacher certification courses, I've read a few articles that talk about technology use in the classroom. The authors pointed out that educators shouldn't try to tailor their lesson plans to fit the capabilities of a few select technological tools. Instead, teachers should seek to focus on the objectives of their lessons and how technology could help them. Then, they should look for the technology that fits their needs.

I hope you learned a lot at your meeting about Pinnacle GradeBook. The school I'm at uses a program called Infinite Campus, which sounds very similar. It really is a great tool. Parents can easily see the progress of their children which allows for better communication between a teacher and parent. Also, it really helps with the number crunching! If you use a weighted average among the various quizzes, tests, projects, and homework you assign, hand calculatoions can become tedious. It's much simpler to have a computer program do the grunt work for you!

Brendan said...

Jeffrey,

Thanks for the comment and good luck with the teaching career.

I haven't thought much about the use of technology to increase class sizes. It could work, but I think the limit on class sizes is more about classroom management than the ability of a teacher to reach x number of students.

I believe the current thought amidst many educators is "Effective technology is like oxygen, ubiquitous, necessary and invisible." quote from Chris Lehmann http://www.practicaltheory.org/serendipity/

Pinnacle was a subsidiary of GlobalScholar for whom I worked about a year. There are some similarities and some differences to Infinitecampus.