My interviewee was a senior teacher who has taught with the same school board for the past 19 years in Ontario. She currently teaches middle school Math, Language, Physical Education and Social Studies. She has a very busy schedule and so our best option for an interview was to send her my questions on Google Docs and she filled out a question here and there when she had time (over the past week). There were three main focuses of the conversation and those were student-directed learning, funding and a discussion around how curriculum drives the technology and not vice-versa.
Much of the interview focused on this teacher’s pedagogy that she specified is strongly based around “inquiry based learning with the inclusion of technology on a daily basis for sharing of ideas to further collaboration between all learners.” She mentioned that one of the advantages to incorporating technology into her teaching practices is greater student collaboration. Having actually been in her class many times before, I can attest to the fact that her class is very student-directed. The students are essentially working at their own pace of items of their own interest, with connections to the curriculum. As the teacher interviewed in Case 5 (from last week’s activity) also demonstrated, the class is very noisy yet accomplishes many tasks with this open philosophy of learning.
When asked about any concerns or disadvantages she has recognized with respect to the inclusion of technology, the chief theme that prevailed was the lack of funding. “Money and funding sometimes does not take care of ‘Equality vs. Equity’”. One of the downfalls to having this interview conducted via Google Docs was the inability to ask follow-up questions. There are multiple ways to interpret this quote but as I have been in her class multiple times, I can only assume that she is referring to the diversification of her students in terms of what they personally have access to. Much of the work that is assigned is given to students as homework if not completed during class time. Many of the students do not have access to tablets at home nor does the school permit the classroom tablets/iPads to go home with the student unless that student has an IEP. That being said, many of the students cannot complete the homework at home and are left with only class time. Another factor that plays into this is the chaotic and loud work environment of the classroom, what comes along naturally with an Inquiry-Based Learning model, and how this is not ideal for all students to complete work.
“Curriculum Drives the Technology”
The majority of the interview was spent revealing the teacher’s pedagogy- “to involve technology when it is a tool to move the students forward not hinder the learning. Therefore it is my philosophy that curriculum drives the technology not the technology that drives the curriculum.” This teacher is the head of the technology department at this school and obviously has a large interest in the inclusion of technology into classrooms. She stated that, “we were beginning to see that technology is not a resource on its own but the means to enrich and deepen learning when embedded into a learning framework.” It was clear after hearing her responses that technology had to be implemented in a meaningful way and not just for the sake of it being there. She continued to stress that any technology she used in the classroom was “to deepen learning tasks in all subjects”. She cited her own professional development when she researched several authors such as Michael Fullen and “his vision of new pedagogy with digital tools and resources”. She illuminated how Fullen believes “it is not the use of technology that improves student achievement, but it is how well it is used to support learning. In fact, he suggests that LRT support and effective descriptive feedback made a greater impact.”
All in all, the interview highlights both important advantages and concerns regarding the inclusion of technology into the classroom. It is clear that the main goal of including technology into one’s classroom is for the students benefit. The take home from this interview was for technology to solely be used as a support to the curriculum and not tailored the other way around.