Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Education, Tech Integration, Star Trek and Goofy?

I believe that much of what we need to know about the universe can be found in old Star Trek episodes. My musings about successfully integrating technology into schools solidified this claim for me.

Short Version:

Successfully integrating technology leads to the technology almost becoming invisible as the users get to focus on what is most important (see video 1 below). Investing in users' confidence and capabilities can empower them to overcome any obstacles technology can throw their way (see the second video below). Technology integration is about investing in people first and foremost.

Longer Version:

Integrating any technology obviously involves planning. In their article "All Aboard!", David and Margaret Carpenter (2008) break down some key aspects to consider. They utilized the Honk Kong International School as their model for this article and here is some of what they found in regards to integrating technology into instructional practices:

  • Empower teachers - Teachers at HKIS had intense workloads combined with high expectations. Allowing teachers to take the lead and collaborate with other stakeholders was very effective.

  • Focus - HKIS didn't try to rewrite the manual on education; they took manageable chunks and constantly reviewed their progress.

  • Collaborate - Very simple...a collaborative focus allowed integration to flow more smoothly horizontally and vertically across the curriculum.

  • Define everyone as learner - "classroom teachers learned new technology and information literacy skills alongside their students." (p. 20)

  • Include Curriculum - It needs to be mentioned that all of the above steps involved a concerted effort to involve curricular changes/implications to their integration efforts.

Take a look back at the above list and ask yourself "What was central to the integration plan...the technology? the users? the curriculum?"

TPACK is another model that looks at the integration of technology. Keep the above questions in mind as you look at the quote and the image from their website below.

Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK) attempts to capture some of the essential qualities of knowledge required by teachers for technology integration in their teaching, while addressing the complex, multifaceted and situated nature of teacher knowledge. At the heart of the TPACK framework, is the complex interplay of three primary forms of knowledge: Content (CK), Pedagogy (PK), and Technology (TK)...True technology integration is understanding and negotiating the relationships between these three components of knowledge. A teacher capable of negotiating these relationships represents a form of expertise different from, and greater than, the knowledge of a disciplinary expert (say a mathematician or a historian), a technology expert (a computer scientist) and a pedagogical expert (an experienced educator.

Sorry for all the highlighting but the above information is crucial. The implications of the above videos and quotes on education in the 21st Century are huge. While some may be looking for specific tips, I am not at that point yet. I am still stuck at wrestling with the big picture and with all of the connections between this topic and countless others.


1. Investing in people is paramount! It has always amazed me how the characters in Star Trek just seemed to know how to fix, adapt, and utilize every piece of technology especially in the heat of battle. Sure, the technology was amazing but at some point in the past there must have been some amazing PD opportunities that solidified their skills. Imagine how different the episodes would have looked if Starfleet built starships but filled them with people who feared technology and had no clue how to use it?

2. Solely focusing on access is counterproductive! There is a huge concern about the digital divide in our nations and especially in our schools. The temptation to focus on access issues by purchasing computers is great but...what if these expensive hardware roll out plans are actually feeding the digital divide?

When new teachers enter the classroom, many are armed with a variety of
technological tools to enhance their curriculum, but too often,a digital divide
exists between teachers and students. Without reform and the empowerment of
teachers and students, schools will widen the digital divide and create an
unavoidable abyss. (Mullen & Wedwick, 2008, p.66)

This quote further supports the TPACK model above and its focus on the complex nature of technology and human knowledge. Mullen & Wedwick go on even further to bring up other topics such as 21st century skills and novel definitions of literacy. I have experienced the frustration of being thrown into a sea of new technologies without any clue about what to do with them. I remember feeling angry, stupid, anxious...but I never considered the broader ramifications. This limited definition of technology integration ("if we buy it they will integrate it") not only harmed me emotionally but actually may have widened the digital divide, undermined efforts to instill 21st century skills in my students, and greatly hampered the level of literacy in my school.

3. Evaluate who we are before we plan where we want to go! Every context, every individual is highly unique. This uniqueness has to fuel or temper your integration plans.

Our efforts to integrate technology will be facilitated or impeded by our answers to these questions. For instance, if we don't even acknowledge the pervasiveness of technology and that society demands novel skills from effective citizens, then integration efforts may be weaker or nonexistent. If we acknowledge the importance of 21st century skills BUT our view of risk directs us to filter everything then our integration strategies will follow suit.

One final thought. Integrating technology is not new. I came across a video today of a fictitious teacher who in his eyes had probably successfully integrated technology into his classroom. Watch the video through the lens of the above questions and ask yourself "Would this teacher embrace change?", "Should this teacher embrace change?", and "Who is benefitting from his use of technology?"

Nonhyperlinked Resources:

Carpenter, D. & Carpenter, M. (2008) All aboard! Learning & Leading with Technology, December/January, 18-21.

Mullen, R. & Wedwick, L. (2008) Avoiding the digital abyss: Getting started int eh classroom with YouTube, digital stories, and blogs. The Clearing House, 82(2), 66-69.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, Mark! Those videos were a great way to start my Monday morning! Technology in schools does need to become invisible...and I am heartened when I read and think about the things that the people in this class have talked about all term. You are the future and are able to see the possibilities and are willing to take the risks that are involved in this kind of integration of technology into schools. It is an amazing time to be a teacher!