"Am I Really Learning?" Part 2--The Need for Quality Integration

on Saturday, June 30, 2007

This week, Kidcast (http://www.intelligenic.com/blog/?page_id=2) posted an interview with Bernie Dodge, creator of the WebQuest. During the podcast, Dr. Dodge stated, “When new technology comes along, we forget what we already know about teaching.” He went on to explain that we overlook the principles of best practice, and we sometimes coast along on the novelty of the technology without really using it in a meaningful way. This got me thinking about the ways technology is used in schools that don’t really help kids create, judge, analyze, and synthesize. To quote Dr. Dodge, “A lot of teachers go: ‘Oh boy, wikis!’ and then do stupid things with them.”

Any new technology can be misused. Take the example of Gizmoz, which I discussed in my last blog entry. That could easily just be used for simple fact regurgitation, but creative teachers could think of ways to use Gizmoz that would force the use of higher level thinking skills. Moreover, it’s easy to Podcast today, but we need to podcast with an educational purpose in mind. Kid-created podcasts should get our students thinking at higher levels, be constructivist in nature, and have practical applications.

Another reason why it’s extremely important that teachers use technology for strong pedagogical reasons is that administrators and legislators are watching. Technology is expensive and they want to see the benefits, or they’ll cut finding. They’re already complaining about the lack of student improvement on standardized testing. According to a study released by the U.S. Education Department, “educational software has no measurable impact on student achievement.” That could partly be due to the fact that much of educational software doesn’t really require higher level thinking. Handing a student a laptop preloaded with reading and writing won’t magically improve standardized test scores.

On the other hand, eMINTS (Missouri Instructional Networked Teaching Strategies) “provides schools and teachers with educational-technology tools, curriculum, and more than 200 hours of professional development to change how teachers teach and students learn. The achievement of students in the eMINTS-equipped classroom was repeatedly more than 10% higher than in classrooms without.” According to that study, educational technology can make a difference when properly used ("A Flawed Measure of Ed Tech," http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/apr2007/tc20070410_846623.htm?chan=top+news_top+news+index_technology).

Bernie Dodge mentioned in the KidCast that if he created WebQuests just a few years later, he doesn’t think the idea would have caught on—the standardized testing world would have squashed the idea. (And he has a funny solution to the problem of standardized testing. Listen to the podcast it hear it.) How unfortunate that would have been! The good news? He thinks the age of high-stakes testing is on it’s way out and will soon be replaced with more problem-based learning.

Regardless of what the scores say, our use of technology can still teach 21-century skills and prepare our students to compete in a global environment. If used properly, it can teach critical thinking, collaboration, and analysis. Why is this important? Watch the YouTube clip below and you'll get a very clear understanding of the need for 21-century skills.

So, the next time I’m selecting which technology to use, and how to use it, I’m going to think long and hard about whether the kids really are learning.

Bernie Dodge gives one more piece of advice: “Schools are too much about talking about stuff… Ask yourself, ‘When does this actually get used in the adult world?’ WebQuests aren’t about teaching a standard directly; they're much better at teaching that standard in its place in the world.” We should strive to make sure all our uses of technology have that same goal.

(A side note: I've stumbled across several eMINTS resources over the past few years, and they really are very good. Check out their site at: http://www.emints.org/ethemes/.)


Natalie DiTullio said...

Wow, this is the key to teaching and technology incorporation. Many people want to use technology because they are pressured to do so by their districts - but then use it for something that can be done with paper and pencil. I am definitely an offender of this, and have felt the need to use technology, but after implementing a lesson, have determined that it could have been done without technology, and would have taken less time! This class should help me and others to incorporate technology so that it is beneficial to students and a novel way of learning.

Greg Reichard said...

I agree with your argument about technology implementation. So many schools are trying to get ahead of the curve by finding new technology for teachers to use, but never properly train teachers on the best methods to use it in their classrooms. So often, teachers get some new type of technology dumped on their laps and are forced to interpret its use on their own.
In terms of the comment on high stakes testing and its removal from our educational system, I definitely disagree. Although the testing format currently in place does not teach our students how to think critically, it is the only measurable way to judge how well our students, and schools, are performing. Until some other type of meaningful assessment is created, high stakes testing is here to stay.

Carrie Mitton said...

Greg, I think you're right that high stakes standardized testing won't magically disappear, but I hope it's going to become only one piece of a larger picture that includes more authentic assessment. However, I do think we're along way from that reality. (I'm still hoping Bernie Dodge is right & we're wrong though!)

Waterbridge said...

Great interview with Bernie Dodge! It would be a great one to use for staff development. Integrating the use of quality technological tools with key educational goals in mind for our students is the challenge!

Megan Fritz said...

Carrie, you are right - this is SO important. IT'S NOT ABOUT THE TECHNOLOGY!!!

We need to use the tools for purposeful tasks and not just for the sake of using the technology.
As we develop our class podcasts, we need to think of our objectives and creative, original ways to use the podcast instead of just reciting something that isn't necessary.

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