I’ve been spending the past few weeks almost completely focused on writing new curriculum for graduate subjects on technology in education and much as I’d love to share the fruits of that enterprise, I’m afraid it’s commissioned work, so it’s subject to confidentiality. But I can share some of the ideas that have arisen as a result of the study.
I suppose the most important thing that keeps arising is that there is still a very large amount of doubt in the community about the value of technology in education. Regardless of changing technology consumption behaviours and needs of business, there is still among educators, parents and even children, a tendency to regard the role of classic, instructor-led teaching as “proper teaching”, and the use of games and social media as largely experimental, and even mere novelty.
This is rather disappointing. In spite of all the evidence that learning by experience and social negotiation is at least as effective as any instructor-led education, there is still among so many commentators, a belief that technology in education should be limited. The rationale given by teachers is often based on technology access. If any child does not have access to the technology then it would be “unfair” for it to be used in the classroom.
But then when a technology becomes available – such as a mobile phone – there are moves to ban them from the classroom, with teachers citing cyberbullying, distraction, and even the facilitation of inappropriate “sexting” as reasons for their embargo. Now granted not all educators are quite so paranoid, but it’s still alarming how many comments are coming from both instructors and parents about the so-called “problems” of mobile phones in classrooms.
The primary reason why these arguments against technology are so poor is that they assume that the technology is completely divorced from education practice. The stereotypes are astoundingly obtuse.
Social media is just for inane chatting.
Games are just for fun.
Mobile phones are just for texting and calling your family in an emergency.
No commentator objecting to use of mobile phones in the classroom is even considering using the device to conduct research, play learning games or to communicate with others as part of a learning experience. Yet where technology use in educational contexts is well-designed, there is no time for distraction, and there is a good reason for educators to be training students in appropriate communication and ideas exchange.
If we are to train young people, and indeed adults, to be active citizens in an information society we should be acknowledging the role that smartphones and mobile communication devices have in keeping us informed. Technology needs not to be regarded as a mere add-on to existing educational offerings, but so deeply embedded in learning practice as to become transparent. Only then will the technology shift from being considered a distraction and a threat, to being considered as benign as a biro.