Tuesday, March 25, 2014

No Technology Without Good Pedagogy!

"Emergent technology use is different. It requires time spent deeply considering the instructional value added by new tools and time spent crafting instruction that puts content and instructional goals ahead of teaching the technology." (Kadjer, 2007, 216).
I often wonder how to best help teachers focus on effective pedagogy with technology.  Sara Kadjer writes about how to incorporate technology into the English classroom in meaningful, authentic ways through the use of blogs, wikis, podcasts, websites , and social media through the creation of artifacts like book trailers. Other authors (and a whole host of Tweeting educators!) concur. Catherine Imperatore points to research which confirms that "students feel a greater sense of ownership and pay greater attention to detail when they know that their work will be published online" (2009). 
New media tools - including social media - offer students opportunities to learn these new formats (which will be necessary for their futures, I believe), but they breathe new life into great pedagogy. There's a reason why book reports have been used for so long: it's a great way to summarize a book and provide one's opinion. But really, by the time adolescents hit high school, is the book report still necessary? Kadjer would suggest we use new tech tools and substitute the book trailer or have kids podcast their reports. 
"Teaching with technology in the English classroom is about always looking, whether it's seeing kids and the range of talents and literacies that they bring into our classrooms or it's seeing the possibilities in a new tool that allows me to amplify curricula for the better" (Kadjer 2007, 229).
Will Richardson's book, Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Webtools for Classrooms, is an indispensable tool for educators wanting to marry good pedagogy and technology in the classroom. There are umpteen edu-bloggers writing about the successful integration of technology and pedagogy.
Of course, there is also the need to teach the technology. Many teachers want to simply put the technology in the hands of kids and let them demonstrate their learning. I agree that some kids have the capacity to figure out the technology and use it to demonstrate their learning. But not all will be able to do this. Our students need direct instruction in how to use tech tools if they are going to demonstrate successfully their learning. I think that exploration of tech tools is a great thing and that students should be given opportunities to try different tools, even if the teacher doesn’t always know how to use that tool themselves. This is learning. However, I worry that teachers we sometimes ask students to demonstrate learning using a medium they don't know and we give an unfair advantage to some over others. Consider a situation where we ask students to demonstrate their learning in a video and then evaluate that video as evidence of learning. This can be problematic: did the teacher instruct about how to create a good video? What are the evaluation criteria? I worry that the slickest video will get high marks, even if it’s not based a deeper understanding. This isn’t necessarily a new problem — many students have learned how to create good looking posters or presentations, but the content was cut and pasted from the internet. 
I have been learning how to help teachers use technology to effectively assess and evaluate student work, promoting a deeper understanding of material. We need to ensure that teachers are giving students opportunities to demonstrate their learning in creative ways, using technology, but with guidance and feedback. I think it’s important to ensure that teachers understand things like the TPACK model in order to use tech mindfully. 

"As the literacies that kids bring into our classroom change (alongside the literacies that they need in order to be productive and competitive in the world outside of school), there is a very real pressure to make sure that what we teach is relevant and helps to push them to develop the skills to be self-directed, ubiquitous learners" (Kadjer, 2007, 229).
Today's students are pretty tech savvy; is your classroom tech savvy, too? Is your tech use pedagogically sound? 
References:
Imperatore, C. (2009). "Wikis and Blogs: Your Keys to Student Collaboration and Engagement." www.acteonline.org.
Kajder, Sarah. B. (2007). "Unleashing Potential with Emerging Technologies." Adolescent Literacy: Turning Promise into Practice. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. pp. 214-229.
Richardson, Will (2010). Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Webtools for Classrooms. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.