Across Contexts

It was very interesting witnessing technology being integrated across so many contexts. Watching how situational factors influenced opinions and decision-making demonstrated how complex technology integration really is. The range of student experiences in all the contexts demonstrates the importance of pedagogy but also of the willingness of larger educational systems to support meaningful technology integration. Access to technology, professional development opportunities, professional/school culture, instructional level, etc. all impacted the way teachers integrated technology in their contexts.

Case 1

Case one demonstrated the benefits of an integrated, interdisciplinary approach. The concepts are connected to real world problem solving and technology is used as facilitator to explore the concepts. The student’s knowledge is connected and constructed through authentic experience. I love how the teacher is excited that the kids figure concepts out on their own and independently problem solve, instead of just remembering what they were told to do. Technology is integrated but is not the focus of instruction. The students were applying the concept with the help of technology, within a theoretical framework. For example, he mentions an Arduino, but only within the context of the project. The students had a functional understanding of the technology and how they were using it to learn. The teachers discussed independence, communication, critical thinking, creative thinking, problem solving as a main focus. I also thought the point about getting student teachers to engage in projects similar to the students was a great idea. I just went to a Makey Makey PD attended by a lot technologically novice teachers. The facilitator had us just do the same projects we were going to do with our students. In one day, he had everyone happily coding away in Scratch. If it the PD would have been done with a ‘stand and deliver’ approach, it would not have been nearly as successful.

Case 5

The teacher in the case 5 classroom has a very positive view of the potential of technology. She views it as an effective scaffold for English language learners. She integrates technology across the curriculum to facilitate her form of project-based learning and incorporates a lot of collaboration. I was wondering how much focus was on just incorporating a lot of technology and how much was on the topics they were learning. It was interesting to listen to the retiring teacher and the new teacher focusing on the reasons why technology is difficult to incorporate. It is a common viewpoint that using technology is a separate ability, or pet interest, that only some teachers possess. Many teachers have a growth-mindset for most subjects, but for math and technology ability is viewed as more fixed.

Case 6

The teacher talked a lot about content and being “right” in his interview. I got the impression he viewed learning as retaining content and regurgitating the answers provided to them. I think his integration provided an upgrade from traditional direct instruction, but I did wonder about the value of students just repackaging provided information through PowerPoint or podcasts. I wondered if the style of integration would allow students to address conceptual challenges. The student teacher made some good points about the benefits of hands-on, collaborative and creative learning.

Case 7

I was struck at the difference between case 1 and case 7. The participation in learning went from immersion with concepts and technology to pressing a button on a remote. Having said that, I would have loved to have access to that during my undergrad educational experience. Actively involving so many students is a very difficult task and at least they are provided with some means of participation.

Case 8

I thought the teachers in case 8 did a good job connecting the use of technology to the concepts they were teaching. They had a convincing rational explaining how the specific technology would help students understand the concepts. They also explained why the technology was more effective than using other methods. They were trying to incorporate the students work into the learning as much as possible. Some of the teachers did identify a significant issue regarding how time intensive integrating technology can be in the early years. The relative lack of independence results in a heavy burden on the teachers. I wonder if the reduced participation of kids impacts its overall educational value for students.

4 comments

  1. Hello Derek. In video case 1, it wasn’t clear to me that the conversation was even about technology until the students were interviewed. This is a bit strange, but perhaps it is the point after all. In other words, improving pedagogy is the issue, and technology may (in cases) be the solution. Your observation about the effectiveness of pro-D when it is “hands on” is very true in my experience. I am fascinated by how often presenters and courses (even education courses!) don’t observe the best practice that we are actively studying and integrating within our individual approaches. Real learning takes time and a lot of interaction.

    In my experience with technology like Arduinos, for example, staff are generally very intimidated until they do their first tutorial sketch “blink”. When they see the LED flashing on and off, and that they can control the rate through code, they are SOLD! Given that the digital probes we use in science are effectively simple circuits and code wrapped up nicely, they can see the value in a more constructivist “build your own probe” approach.

  2. I just bought an Arduino for a grade 5 class, but I am definitely putting off learning it. I thought the teachers in case 1 did a great job selecting technologies that added value to the learning experience, instead of finding things for kids to do with the technology. However, until you’re familiar with the technology, it can be challenging to see ways to use it purposefully.

  3. Another great tool for Grade 5 is the Raspberry Pi. Get an old monitor, keyboard and mouse and buy a kit from here http://www.canakit.com/raspberry-pi-3-ultimate-kit.html
    Open up the wifi and send the kids over to raspberrypi.org on the first lesson here https://www.raspberrypi.org/learning/physical-computing-with-scratch/
    you will be suprised how powerful this little single board computer is. We are now running a lab of 12 with my grade 5’s and they are doing everything from composing music on them to building motorized windmills, it is an amazing tool.

  4. Derek

    I like the fact that you brought up “…repackaging provided information through PowerPoint or podcasts.” When students are doing projects…is this not what they are doing? What about the journey the students go through to get to the final product. When a Hollywood movie is made about 90% of the work is done before and after the filming.

    I wonder if you can explain some of the “…rational explaining how the specific technology would help students understand the concepts…”

    A good next step might be to incorporate literature in your posting.

    Christopher

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