Educational technology philosophy statement

With few exceptions, such as programming classes (in which students are taught to program) and business classes (in which students are taught to use word processors and spreadsheets), technology is not a part of the explicit curriculum nor should it be. To enshrine some particular technological innovation in the curriculum is to take flexibility away from teachers and place school districts at the mercy of technology vendors. Social constructivist pedagogy provides a model for what students can create with technology. In fact the uses are broader, with a teacher choosing to use technology for the following reasons.

  1. New and interesting technologies naturally motivate students and draw out their oft-latent curiosity. (Note that this does not work on all students.)
  2. The chosen technology serves as a cognitive aid, providing an experiential handle on an abstract concept. (One must be sure that the costs do not exceed the benefits over the next best alternative.)
  3. What students can do or create with the technology instills competence and reinforces the pleasure of learning.

When students are stuck working a math or physics problem, I encourage them to write down what they know and draw diagrams to help them. I tell them that writing was invented to make them smarter, for they can keep track of far more on paper than they can hold in their working memory at once. So it is with all technologies employed for the third reason. When I evaluate a technology for inclusion into the classroom, I consider:

  1. Will it make the students more powerful, more capable of turning their visions into realities?
  2. Can it capture the imagination of teachers, making them more likely to create quality assignments?
  3. Does it increase the likelihood that each student will participate?
  4. Does it reinforce social constructivist dynamics in the classroom or enable new modes of interaction?
  5. Does it give the students a wider audience for their work?
  6. Does it afford students faster, better feedback and lower the cost of failure?
  7. Does it enable all students to succeed without regard to circumstances at home?

By way of creating quality with-technology assignments for students, one naturally happens upon project-based learning, so much so that one cannot discuss one without the other. One cannot provide meaningful assignments that will engage students without projects. The mere existence of an assignment that can be done in a day negates its importance for students. Perhaps after they have acculturated to projects, they can accept day-long tasks, but for most it will be too short for real learning to occur. Moreover, meaningful assignments generate an opportunity for interdisciplinarity and force teachers to model knowledge-seeking by reaching out to fellow teachers outside of their core discipline.

The use of technology in schools need not be expensive, and it would be foolish to adopt it without considering the costs. Computers are infinitely programmable, but someone has to program them. As a teacher one tries to model a cooperative spirit of inquiry. Schools and software developers have realized the common ground in what they are trying to accomplish and have invented mechanisms to harness their efforts. The Free Software and Open Source Software movements contain a bounty of free and easy to use software. Teachers can help each other and their school districts by sharing their expertise. School district administrators can benefit students by allowing or even facilitating this sort of enterprising spirit.

New technology always leads to new social dilemmas. Through media literacy and information literacy, we can help students to question the world around them. Asking real questions about real-world issues helps students to sustain these activities on their own outside of school. Providing them with experience conveying their viewpoints using multimedia elevates them above simple consumers of media to critical thinkers about media.

Published on 2009.06.29 at 20:12  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. This is an excellent educational technology philosophy statement. You’ve provided lots of great examples and supported the use of technologies in education.

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