How New Technologies Have (and Have Not) Changed Teaching and Learning in Schools
The landscape of education is being changed with new technologies entering schools. The potential opportunities for learning with technology has become more common as educators attempt to overhaul instruction, thinking, and learning with the use of the computer. Seymour Papert asserted in the early 80’s, computers would change the educational process and the connection between the teacher and the student. The question still remains some 30 years later whether technologies have transformed the classroom into a learner-centered environment with expanded cognitive learning. This changing environment of education continued to advance during the 90’s as technology expenditures were met with less than impressive results in the classroom. Support for technology in the classroom grew with funding from local, state, and federal digital initiatives. The result was that of oversold and under unitized technologies to create a learner-centered environment. Teachers were still teaching with an instructionist model, where teachers were the focal point in the classroom and the students were being “taught to.”
The turn of the century inducted a new philosophical change to create data-driven results in the high-stakes assessment of education. Improved results were the focus with the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2001. The focus was still not on that of the student creating and directing their learning but rather how they performed on formal assessments. Administrators became more focused on test scores and less concerned with student construction of knowledge. The objectives turned to gauging if students could pass the test without direction on cognitive thinking or development of knowledge. Computer information systems were proliferating through districts and schools in order to access and analyzing student achievement. There still was not a direction of integrating technology to create student-driven learning.
Two kinds of contrasting learning technologies have taken different paths in and out of schools. These two technologies are technologies for learning and the opposing technologies for learners. The initial technologies for learning creates a focus on what learning will occur with a passive role for the learner. The opposing approach, technology for learners, creates goals with the the learner actively participating with the technology. Technology for learners allows for a less structured environment to permit the student freedom to explore and assemble their own learning.
The argument remains with who controls the learning environment. Students are less motivated in a controlled learning environment of structured courses. Any student is able to learn in this configured environment. Questions remain on the breadth and depth of knowledge acquired in the controlled learning environment. Over the past 30 years, educators have remained focused on adapting the technology to existing pedagogical practices. Instruction has remained the priority throughout technology integration in education. Teachers have not been retrained with new teaching and learning styles that are afforded through technology in the classroom. Unfortunately, these technologies for learners are growing outside of the traditional and online classrooms. New educational opportunities are growing through video games, social network sites, blogs, hosted media channels (video sites), internet-based communities. In conclusion, out-of-school learning with technology may be the necessary complement for in-school educators.
Upon reflection of the article, I was reminded back to Larry Cuban’s book, Oversold and Underused, I read in ETEC 579. I am amazed at how education is attempting to identify the “magical” technological resource that will complement and support students in education. It seems Papert was a man ahead of his own time because in the 80’s he was describing how to use computers to create a dynamic learning experience. Constructivism, the learning theory, which Papert developed in now gaining in popularity and is being explored by educators to create student-centered environments. Funding for technology has been a buzz word in education for many years, and I think educators are finally researching needs and learning focus’ before purchasing the latest, trending technology resource.
With the advent of long term strategic plans, education is attempting to travel down the technological pathway to developing technology goals for learner objectives and uses within the classroom. I am in the middle of a technology for learner adoption in my district. All teachers and administrators have recently been issued iPads and the objective for this new resource is to assist the teacher with the integration of a learner-centered environment. Time will tell with the iPad integration plan. Before teachers and administrators walk in a classroom they should ask, “What does the proper use of technology look like in a classroom?”
Halverson, R., & Smith, A. (2010). How new technologies have (and have not) changed teaching and learning in schools. Journal Of Computing In Teacher Education, 26(2), 49-54.