Technology Integration Has No Hope of Succeeding!
by Dr. Rob Reilly
"How do we get technology integrated into schools?" "How do we get teachers to robustly utilize technology?" These have been burning questions for quite some time. The powers-that-be in school systems and at state departments of education have answered these questions in many ways. For example, state departments of education have mandated that school systems have technology plans, they have initiated technology funding programs, they have mandated student-computer and staff-computer ratios, and they have funded exemplar programs whereby early adopters of technology would develop programs that would, in theory, filter out to other teachers.
Well, the funding programs seemed to have worked fairly well. The state departments of education mandates for student-computer and staff-computer ratios have been successful---but mandates generally work well! Grants for the purpose of creating a cadre of early adopters who will develop exemplary technology programs also seems to be successful; or are they? These programs, while superficially showing signs of success, have actually not fared so well. The difficulty is that no one seems to realize that the thinking behind these programs will not produce scalable results---the resulting exemplar programs are simply not being adopted by the typical classroom teacher.
In a sentence, the problem is that the focus of exemplary technology programs is usually on 'technology.' But shouldn't the focus of technology integration be on technology? After all that's what the issue is---isn't it? Shouldn't the exemplar programs be led by the early adopters; those who are willing to jump into technology?
Well, this seems reasonable. It sounds reasonable to the powers-that-be at various state departments of education, it sounds reasonable to many superintendents, it sounds very reasonable to staff members who love new the technologies that are befalling education.
Giving the early adopters in various school systems the ability to provide technology leadership seemed to be a stroke of genius---give seed money to a few and many others will profit from what will be grown. Well, the idea that the early adopters of technology would develop programs such that the remaining 90-99% of the professional staff would 'follow the leader' and in short order technology would become pervasive seemed like a terrific idea! I must admit that this 'follow the leader' notion is appealing. It's cost effective and it has a certain Reagan-era ring that "trickle down economics" had.
But the 'trickle down' effect will just peter out before it will be effective. It seems that the 'follow the leader' approach to technology integration is bound to fail. The trouble is that this approach appears to be working and is thus continuing; but this approach is only successful for the early adopters and a small second wave of early adopters.
These early adopters have drawn others into technology integration. But…let me observe that the early adopters have drawn-in those who could also be classified early adopters; they have not drawn-in people from the outside their genre. This approach is NOT and will NOT attract the remaining 95% of the staff into adopting technology.
I suggest that the typical teacher will NOT be attracted to technology for the sake of technology. They will be attracted to CURRICULUM DEVELOPMENT that can be supported by technology. They will be attracted to something that will make their professional lives richer---the technology will support this, but it will NOT, and should NOT be the prime motivating factor.
The critical factor here is that the issue is NOT technology, the issue IS curriculum---or to be more precise, curriculum development.
Let's step aside from this issue for a moment and think back a few centuries when textbooks were first introduced into classrooms, or should I say when textbook integration occurred. At that time the initiative was not known as 'textbook integration.' The people in those days understood that the textbooks were conduits; textbooks did not create new knowledge; textbooks merely provided a more efficient and effective way to transmit what was previously far less accessible. Today we do not seem to grasp the concept that technology is liken to textbooks of a few centuries ago, it is a conduit for knowledge, just as textbooks were (and still are) If technology were viewed as a conduit, then it would be crystal clear that we are talking about curriculum development and NOT about technology integration.
The focus must return to curriculum development, it must NOT be upon the technology; the technology is a mere conduit. In order to refocus 'technology integration' so that the remaining 95% of the professional staff will be techno-literate and will adopt/embrace technology in their classroom, the job description of the technology coordinators and technology directors and the mission statement in the technology plans MUST be changed to reflect the role of curriculum developer, to role of curriculum coordinator. It is also imperative that state departments of education, superintendents, and principals also change their mindset in regard to technology integration-it must be thought of as curriculum development and NOT thought of as technology integration!
Essentials of Educational Technology: (Part of the Essentials of Classroom Teaching Series)
by James E. Schwartz, Robert J. Beichner
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Education/Technology/Power: Educational Computing As a Social Practice
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