Finding Real Reasons to Embrace Technology in Schools

"Knowing how to make use of online tools without being overloaded with too much information is, like it or not, an essential ingredient to personal success in the twenty-first century." -Howard Rheingold (in Net Smart)
"I would challenge each of you to truly analyze how you are using the technologies that you are using." -Nick Sauers 
Nick Sauers has an interesting post citing the results of an Educational Researcher article that analyzed how wikis are being used in schools.  He is essentially asking us to reflect on why we are using the technologies we are using.  While it is OK to use tech tools for efficiency purposes or for the "fun factor", we need to ask more and more whether the technologies we are adopting have value in terms of student learning.  That should always be the bottom line.

The Digital Native argument is getting tired. If you haven't heard, the digital native argument goes something like this:  Kids are immersed in technology. Kids seem to intuitively understand how computers and mobile devices work without having to read a manual. They "communicate" and "collaborate" with each other with these technologies despite us (teachers).  Let me be as clear in this as I can be: It is not a strong enough argument. Anymore.

Principal Eric Sheninger's post, "Education Should Reflect Real Life" is short and to the point.  As always he makes good points, such as:

"Many of us firmly believe in the potential that technology has to transform the teaching and learning cultures in schools.  Whether it is used to enhance lessons, assess learning, engage students, or unleash creativity, technology has a defined role in variety of school functions."

He then shares a video by Power on Texas which ends well but made me cringe at first because, once again, the digital native paradigm is raised.  Ultimately in the video, teachers are interviewed and they cite real evidence that students have become more engaged in their learning and test scores have risen as a result of the technologies that have been adopted in the classroom.

This is where we should focus now:  finding real, evidence-based reasons to adopt technology in schools.  We need to reflect on our goals and employ technology use as a tool for increased student engagement and learning. Thankfully, evidence is being gathered and shared.  It is up to us to mine through the available (digital) information and collect the data to support the use of technology as a tool that improves student learning-and to continue to do Action Research studies on our own uses of technology with students.

Data doesn't lie.  And 'digital native' is just a term. Some (economically privileged) students have and employ technology to their educational benefit but many need to be shown smart ways to learn in digital realms without being overloaded with too much information. We then to need to assess their use and determine if the technology was truly helpful to learn pre-existing curricular learning objectives. My bet is that the technology is helpful when used mindfully but we shouldn't justify our future technology purposes just because students text each other. A lot.

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