Technology, per se, doesn’t optimize teaching and learning!

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As I See It

By ELPIDIO R. ESTIOKO

I thought, having the latest technology in the classroom will give you the competitive edge needed in competing in this world-wide web era! My educator-friend Ruel Manipis also thought the same thing. It turns out it’s not enough! What matters most, according to an article published lately in The Journal titled Display size matters: Selecting the right display size for classrooms, is coming out with selecting the right display size for the classrooms to support the right visual environment.

“When it comes to visual technology’s impact on K-12 education, the biggest hurdle isn’t which technology to select but how to best support the right visual environment that optimizes teaching and learning”, the article mentioned.

Amazing, right? The Journal, transforming education through technology, continued: “We need to consider the factors that most impact student visibility and legibility and guidance for selecting the screen size best suited for specific classroom environments. Imaging technology has dramatically affected the experience of K-12 teaching and classroom dynamics”.

This may be likened to the fact that it’s not the teacher’s lesson plan that matters, it’s how the teacher delivers the lessons as contained in the plan.

While principals require teacher’s lesson plans, the latter may need to ably deliver the contents of the plan. Otherwise, the lesson plan remains to be a plan and in paper only.

The article further claims that, “From a time when the primary ways to relay information were verbal, via a blackboard or overhead projector, to the current array of computers, tablets, flat screens and projectors – deciding what to select can be complicated. Today there is a lot of focus on flat panels and projectors. However the big dilemma isn’t which technology to select, but how to support the right visual environments that help teachers teach and students learn. Whether the pedagogical style is sage on a stage, guide by the side, flipped classrooms, display-based or constructivist, getting everyone on the same page and keeping focus are key components in supporting student comprehension”.

Regardless of the technology selected, the paper makes us understand the factors that impact student visibility and legibility of the display and how to select screen size based on classroom size. Whiteboards, somehow, are the best candidates in classroom support in order to get the right visual environment for technology to be effective and efficiently utilized in optimizing learning.

So, it is being suggested that in today’s K-12 classrooms, displays are used for a range of educational purposes 50% or more of class time, ensuring that the technology is the optimal size and quality is critical.

Evaluating the merits of the suggestion, I think the author has the point because most of the time, students are visual in nature and they always appreciate things they see vividly and experience it accordingly.

Giving another practical example as to a person’s religiosity, we can identify a practicing religious individual from a religious in name only by their thoughts and their deeds. We can even appreciate better a person possessing a tattered and worn-out Bible from that with a beautifully kept and untouched Bible displayed in a corner of his or her house. The former suggests he or she is reading the Bible and putting into action what he or she reads compared to the latter who just displayed the book and never reads at all.

Again, The Journal may have the merit of the suggestion considering that in a technology-rich classroom, students don’t “learn” technology. Technology merely provides the tools to be used for authentic learning. … Teachers must determine how technology tools are used, and they must have a hand in designing the staff development process that trains them.

This is where Lynne Schrum article titled Technology as a tool to support Instruction come into play. Lynne Schrum presented her personal perspective on the ways in which technology can enhance learning — and calls on educators to take a leadership role in determining the ways in which technology is used to support educational goals. Lynne Schrum is the past president of the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) and is an associate professor in the department of instructional technology at the University of Georgia.

In the 1980s, when computers were first making their way into our classrooms and we were still unfamiliar with the technology and uncertain about its possibilities, we stepped back and let software developers, hardware vendors, and other technicians define not only what we could buy but also how those products would be used. In many ways, the technology drove the educational process. And guess what? It didn’t work very well, Schrum observed!

Now, we’ve entered an era in which technology is no longer an intimidating novelty where educators need to get on board and see to it that students become technologically skilled. But is mere technological skill enough? If it’s clear that technological tools will help them achieve that goal, educators will use those tools.

Schrum said the real world is not broken down into discrete academic disciplines. I’ve heard a number of teachers say that they would like to be able to change the way they teach — to find ways to implement project-based, multidisciplinary lessons. And then, she said, “Let’s think about how that might happen when technology is used to support learning”.

She believes that in a technology-rich classroom, students don’t “learn” technology. Technology merely provides the tools to be used for authentic learning. It is a means, not an end. Technology provides educators with the opportunity to move from simply streamlining the way things have always been done to really imagining things they would like to do.

So, teachers must determine how technology tools are used, and they must have a hand in designing the staff development process that trains them.

Teachers are creative, intelligent people, and once they learn to use technology in their professional lives — for keeping records, for creating documents, and for enhancing their own learning — they will soon discover the many ways in which technology can enhance what they are doing with their students, maintains Schrum.

In order to successfully infuse technology into their classrooms, teachers must understand the fact that learning to use the “gadgets” is an end in itself. They must provide much-needed leadership to find the best ways of using technology to enhance teaching and learning. They must expect and demand the best and most interesting software to enhance their educational goals.

They must be included in planning the technology implementation — and be encouraged to experiment with the available tools.

Again, it boils down to teachers educating themselves on how to best use those tools to enhance teaching and learning. We must challenge ourselves, our students, our administrators, and policymakers to help all teachers make the best use of the technology tools available to them because technology, per se, doesn’t optimize teaching and learning!

(For feedbacks, comments… please email the author @ estiokoelpidio@gmail.com).

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