Friday, May 11, 2012

Defining "Educational Technology"


I was thinking about the following questions recently and I thought it would be nice to share my thoughts and ask for feedback from any readers... 

What is your working definition of technology? 
What is your working definition of assessment? 
How are you currently facilitating the use of technology in the classroom?

My definition of technology is fairly loose. I would say it is the application of new science or concepts for the purpose of making a task more efficient or effective. In this discussion I often share a funny story from my experience consulting. While visiting a school to offer professional development I was told by a veteran teacher that she couldn’t do “the SMART Board thing” because it was “too high tech.” I told her it was basically just a really fancy mouse pad. That night I looked up some interesting quotes and found one from Horace Mann himself (which I could not find to share here). He said something like ‘this board will revolutionize education and change every classroom…’ He was talking about the chalkboard, of course, around the turn of the century. I put the quote on the title page of the second day’s workshop and asked everyone what the thought. They all said “Yes, SMART Boards will change everything, but it’s tough to figure out how to integrate it into lesson we already teach and strategies we already use.” I let them talk about and get a little fired up, then I clicked to reveal the author, date, and subject.

It seems to me that teachers (and businesses) feel the same way I described in a great many circumstances. Just like hand held slate boards were once revolutionary teaching and assessment tools, dare I say “high tech,” so now are web 2.0 and other resources. It is all relative. To facilitate eh use of technology in the classrooms within my district I prefer slow and methodical implementation. I try to give teachers a dozen reasons to use a particular tool and let them want to learn and use it. If you get stakeholder buy in anything is possible. Once interest builds I develop user specific training to teach basic features and functions to enable exploration. The next phase is professional development. This PD should be hands-on, relevant to the content areas of those involved, and ongoing. I do my best to reproduce everything produced in presentation format and post it online. This way it can be revisited when needed.  

One of my favorite ideas sweeping the education community right now is the move toward mobility. I am doing my best to win grants for my teachers to use iPads, iPods, and other tablets in the classrooms. By enabling the learners to succeed in so many facets, I open up numerous opportunities to tap into web response systems.
Some of my favorite online tools at the moment are www.questionpress.com and www.polleverywhere.com . These tools allow teachers to use a browser and any texting cell phone as a student responder. With the first item, I suggest to teachers that they import standards based assessments required by the state into the online database. Then they can align standards to questions and deliver the practice test numerous times a year to gauge student retention and progress. In short it is a brilliant tool to find where on the learning continuum a student lies through this summative assessment. In the context of the second tool, I suggest teachers use instant polling features to create dynamic formative assessments. Instant polls are wonderful for anticipatory sets, anonymous polling, and simple understanding checks.