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Advancing Technology and How It Is Changing Education

Eric Clark

In my administrative role, I am often asked to speak to educators about the advancements in educational technology and current best practices. Our conversations tend to be on topics of pedagogical integration of emerging technologies, and identifying tools that will enhance the teacher's classroom instruction. When I facilitate these meetings, more often than not, the group of educators splits into two different camps:

  • On one hand, we have a group of educators that considers themselves early technology adopters, and they are excited at the thought of learning about new technologies.
  • The second group is comprised of folks that are satisfied with their current methods of teaching, and tend to view technology as a distraction.

Facilitating meaningful dialogue between the two groups is challenging. When the dichotomy is formed, a clear line is drawn in the proverbial sand and both parties settle in to defend their perspective battleground. While I can empathize with both groups, it is important that they seek out common ground for the sake of the students. The framework discussed below helps educators objectively analyze the adoption of new technology and determine if the tool is a good fit for their pedagogy.

While I would consider myself to be an early adopter, I make a point to collaborate with my colleagues that are a bit more skeptical. These conversations often challenge my current way of thinking and help me gain a firm understanding of the positive and negative consequences of adopting technology in education. Throughout our conversation, we attempt to answer the questions below.

What is the intended purpose for the technology?

It is easy to get caught up in the "newness" factor of technology and overlook its potential flaws. Taking time to analyze how the technology will integrate into teaching pedagogy will help educators determine its effectiveness as a tool. Defining clear outcomes will also aid in the assessment process, and help educators make objective decisions. In short, regardless of how cool the technology is, there should be specific, measurable outcomes achieved by students in order to justify using any technology.

How steep is the learning curve?

Educators and parents are acutely aware of the speed in which the school year passes and will not tolerate wasted class time. When adopting new educational technology, it is important to assess how much time it will take the teacher and students to learn how to use the technology appropriately. Regardless of how great the technology is, it may not be worth using if there is a steep learning curve.

Is the existing infrastructure robust enough to handle the new technology?

Earlier this year, I attempted to transform my iPad and MacBook Pro into an electronic whiteboard using airplay software called Reflector. This combination allowed me to mirror my iPad onto my computer, which was then hooked up a projector. I could then move around the room with my iPad and let students use the device to complete math problems from their seats. Though theoretically, this technological integration was backed by research and should have a positive addition to my pedagogy, it flopped. The wireless connection could not handle the usage, and there was a major delay in reflecting the iPad content on the computer screen.

Now that we have justified using a new technology, it is time to put theory into practice. If the technology adoption is a total flop, that is okay! Analyze where things went wrong, and make adjustments to ensure the next attempt is a success. Integrating technology into teaching will be filled with roadblocks and hurdles. Learn from these mistakes, and don't become discouraged. We are all works in progress.

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