Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Technology in Education: My First Model

This is my first attempt to model the core issues of technology in education, mainly at a college level. And this is the very first time I write an entry entirely in English hehe. I'm pretty sure there's lots of room for iteration for my model. I hope you can all help me improve it.

The model is based on what I found interesting of both last week's and this week's readings. After last week's readings I decided that I wanted my model to be based in the concept of information ecology brought up by Nardi and O'Day. The concept suits perfectly what I've always believed of a class: a system where people interact and carry on activities served by technology. I also decided to differentiate the elements of a class and the elements of an information technology. I wanted to show that even though a class is part of the ecology, there are processes that happen inside a class that affect directly its members.

Technology is a definitely important element of the ecology. I first considered having it as a separate element that interacts with every other element. But, somehow that implied that technology is always there for everybody to interact with it when necessary. I decided then, to keep it as an implicit element that fills the class to make it a "technology aided class".

Students taking the class are also an obvious part of an information ecology. Nevertheless, in my experience as a college educator I have noticed that students who have already approved the course are also a very important part of the ecology. They voluntarily assist other students in how to take advantage of the technology being used in class. They also bring feedback to the class facilitator and sometimes the comment about issues they've encountered in that class with other facilitators.

Teachers conform another important element. After some consideration, I decided to use the term facilitator instead of teacher since my model focuses on adults. A facilitator would try to guide the students into achieving their best thinking and reaching their best practices without telling them exactly how to. A comment in Roschelle's article made me reflect on the effect that facilitators outside the class might also have on the ecology: "Intemet use is more common in schools where teachers talk to their colleagues and have the opportunity to visit each other's classrooms". The fact is that teachers do talk to each other about how their class is going and they share advices to improve their teaching practices, as well as their technological skills. So I decided to consider facilitators outside the class too.

While looking for important facts of how technology is being introduced in the present (for this week's assignment) I tried to look for examples in my country's scope. My country's government has started a project called "the school of the millennium" . These are experimental public schools provided with an infrastructure that supports the use of ICT in the class. With this initiative the government seeks to develop an educational model that can later be reproduced in other public schools of the country. As much as this can be a good initiative, it made me think in how important changes are proposed in education. Important sustainable changes are never proposed by teachers. They are commonly proposed and supported by authorities, such as the government, that have the economic power to give sustainability to an initiative. I added authorities to the model, since they will always exist as proposers of new technologies and change, but in an ideal model, they will not be the only ones carrying on the changes.

Additionally, the executive summary of the EETT's report shows that there is a heavy focus on evaluate the impact and success of technology in education based on district or state-mandated assessments. Roschelle's article points at the same issue when explaining why this form of assessment does not match the high-order learning supported most effectively by technology. Authorities should also be in charge of carrying on appropriate evaluations of the impact of technology in education.

Cuban's article is an excellent resource that shows us the repeating patterns when adopting technology in education from the teacher's point of view. In other words, he finds out how teachers viewed the new technology and why. In the three cases he presents, amongst the most important reasons for infrequent use of the new technology were cost of the equipments, inaccessibility of the equipments when needed, lack of information, lack of technological training. In general, all matter of resources. A technology aided class needs to constantly be fed by resources of all kinds. That is why I included it as an important element of the information ecology in my model.

Even though having all the necessary resources is important, Cuban's study shows that making the technology accessible does not imply that the teachers are going to use it in their classes. The failure in the adoption of films and radio as revolutionary technologies in education are both good examples of this. One main reason why teachers chose not to use the technology proposed was that it did not adjust to a specific class topic or to their way of teaching it. Somehow it did not give them enough flexibility. In my opinion this happened because teachers were never viewed as an important part of the process of adopting the new technology, and their teaching practices were never considered. Roschelle's article also mentions that "Teachers who succeed in using technology often make substantial changes in their teaching style and in the curriculum they use" and concludes that reforming the curriculum with the participation of all the community's stakeholders is a key factor for success.

I decided to include the class curriculum as an element of the information ecology, as well as the class content, that refers to the day by day content of a class session. I did such differentiation since I wanted to show the interaction of students and facilitators with the curriculum, but then I realized that they don't experience or interact with the whole curriculum at once. Students interact with the class content as the facilitator has prepared it. Facilitators prepare the content and they revise it "on the go", making changes to it during class if necessary, according to the student's reactions. In my model I show that the changes in the class curriculum are not only responsibility of the authorities and the facilitators. At a college level, students should also be part of that reforming process.

Inside the ecology, students and facilitators interact sharing practices, collaborating and gaining knowledge. Facilitators in a class work with the students existing knowledge and with technology to help students gain more knowledge. Students are faced with challenges and are encouraged to look for answers in collaboration with their classmates. Technology is an aid for the class. It enables students to quickly build and revise their work, so that they can explore possibilities faster of what they could do without it.

Based on Roschelle's article, I added the real-world context as another element of my model. Through technology, students have access to real-world data and problems that they can attempt to solve. Additionally, they can also affect the real-world context by collaborating with it (e.g.: students of a class collaborating with wikipedia).

Finally, all of this interactions happening will change and even improve the students' and facilitator's practices.


'Nanner said...
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Anna VC said...

I really like how you've expanded your model since we first worked on it in has gone in a good and interesting direction.

I find it interesting that instructors needed to change their teaching styles dramatically to successfully incorporate technology in the classroom. On one hand, it could be argued that change is a result in the shift towards technology and the requirements for learning technology. But that's not the HCI way of thinking about it. I think that is a very interesting space to explore for research and design. Interesting food for thought...