A Personal Understanding of Educational Technology

When I applied to become an Instructional Technology Consultant with South East Cornerstone I asked myself what is educational technology and how can it be used to support students and teachers. I ended up drafting and developing a personal philosophy of educational technology, based around our division philosophy and goals.  Upon reflecting on this philosophy at the time there are pieces that I still believe in, as well as pieces that have changed and evolved as I have grown as an educator.  I believe that technology can be used as a vehicle for learning and it needs to be embedded throughout our teaching practice. However, teachers mustn’t view technology as the goal of learning.  Effective technology use in the classroom involves having a purpose.

I try to tie all the work I do with teachers and students to the ISTE standards. These standards that are laid out for educators and students pave the way for students to develop the 4Cs (Communication, Collaboration, Creativity, Critical Thinking).  By looking at how these standards can tie into my lessons on technology reinforce that my teaching practice with technology has meaning.  Furthermore, I also try to be mindful and follow some different technology integration frameworks such as the SAMR model, TPack, and the LoTi framework.  These models again push my technology integration to become more meaningful for students.

In the past seven months, we have seen the importance of educational technology. We have seen the positives that educational technology provides, such as the ability to connect with educators, colleagues, and engage in professional development at a distance. However, we have also seen how these technologies can have negative consequences as well.  Inappropriate technology use, technology burnout, ‘Zoom fatigue’. I have had many situations where I have been asked for advice on how to limit technology for certain students because of inappropriate use, or have had parents ask me how to restrict Wi-Fi access to their students, teachers who are just “done with technology”.  We need to model for our students the effective use of technology.  Part of my contemporary definition of educational technology revolves around the responsible use of technology, as opposed to the acceptable use of technology. This is expanded on in Alec Couros and Katia Hildebrandt’s Digital Citizenship Education
in Saskatchewan SchoolsFurthermore, students need to be provided with appropriate digital citizenship, and currently, this is ever more important. Vicki Davis provides an excellent post about two essential approaches to digital citizenship, proactive knowledge, and experiential knowledge.

I will be the first one to admit, I LOVE TECHNOLOGY. This being said, I never have spent a lot of time focusing outside of how can technology also be a negative influence, besides the last class I took with Alec where we debated many topics around technology.  However, I found Neil Postman’s article Five Things we Need to Know About Technological Change so interesting. He lists off five points that highlight the consequences of any technology integration.

  1. Technology is a trade-off.
  2. The advantages and disadvantages of new technologies are never distributed evenly among the population.
  3. Embedded in technology there is a powerful idea.
  4. Technological change is not additive; it is ecological
  5. Media tend to become mythic.

I have spent time thinking on Postman’s first point, technology as a trade-off.  When we look at social media. Despite the positives of connection, and real-time knowledge. The trade-off is essentially everything that The Social Dilemma (View it on Netflix) highlights, fake news, loss of in-person connection, polarization, mental health issues.  Furthermore, highlighting the need to address and these issues with our students.

Audrey Walters also highlights in the 100 Worst Ed-Tech Debacles of the Decade some of the edtech endeavors that did not pan out.  Some of these I would debate, the effectiveness of the flipped classroom, and 3D printing in education.  However, many of the debacles highlighted are forgotten edtech apps, projects, or technology that raise excellent points of why these did not pan out.  I think when we are using any type of new technology it is important to be mindful of the points in Postman’s articles.  Also, realize that it is important to be mindful of the technologies you are using and how the technology is using students’ data.  Often when we are using a technology that is “free” we are trading and allowing companies to trade off our data to third-party companies.  So “free” might not always be better.  Privacy is a major concern, and thus it is important to understand what companies are doing with our data.

In conclusion, educational technology integration needs to be purposeful, it needs to be explicitly taught and modeled to students, and expectations and routines around educational technology need to be co-created with students.  Teachers need to be mindful that it isn’t about the next big tech tool, or about implementing 30 different apps and programs in their teaching practice. Use technology that works for you and your students.

Comments (6)

  1. Reply

    Thank you for this post Curtis!
    I am not a huge fan of limiting students access on their device, but I have had students who cannot seem to grasp what is appropriate and what is not. Quite often though, I find, is losing the device for a day or a week really sends a message – there are limitation in what they can accomplish in the class against those who have the full breadth of 1:1 devices behind them; I always follow this up with “we will still meet this outcome, with or without a computer.” Obviously, this can be problematic, but in my experience, students quickly realize the privilege (not right…) that they have lost by acting inappropriately. I would argue that losing a device for a period of time is far worse than losing a recess, a practice which has historically been implemented to help correct defiance. I hate to use technology as a bargaining chip, but when students see the importance in something, clearly it shows educators that Ed Tech is important if they are willing to correct negative behaviours in order to continue participating in a digital classroom!

  2. Reply

    Great blog. Thanks for sharing your personal philosophy … I share many of the same beliefs as you do (go figure). I like that you use a variety of tech integration models and work hard to understand the big picture and how to best integrate technology or even if it shouldn’t be in some cases. Also appreciate your last point that less is more. Thanks

  3. Reply

    Hi Curtis! Thanks for sharing. Amen to technology having a purpose in the classroom. I am wondering if we should have some PD on the ITSE standards and the various frameworks of technology integration. Hint, hint – PLC?! :-). Sometimes, myself included, I think we look at what the tool does and what product it can produce without considering how it can be fully integrated into the teaching and learning experience. As Kozma argues, maybe we should ask ourselves “In what ways can we use the capabilities of media to influence learning for particular students, tasks, and situations?”. Thanks for also reminding us that we don’t have to do it all at once. There is so much out there and the possibilities are exciting. But, it can be overwhelming. I have learned that over the past week with my students and have had to pull back to modelling and explicitly teaching. Thanks for the post!

  4. Reply

    Great post Curtis. I’m sure you are doing some amazing work with teachers in your school division around finding purposeful technology. In my personal experience, finding that purposeful technology involves taking some risks and finding out what works in your classroom.

    I watched the social dilemma last night and was quite intrigued by many of the things they brought up in the documentary. Also I felt it was very doom and gloom at times, the addictiveness and impact on mental health is a conversation that we must be having today as educators. What role is education and the school system having on mental health and technology addiction? In addition, what role do we have in informing and better preparing our students for these challenges?

    As always, thanks for the read!

  5. Reply

    Thank you for the great read! I could not agree with you more that using technology effectively in the classroom involves having a purpose. I too am seeing the need for students to learn about how to appropriately use technology and the importance of digital citizenship. With online learning and the need to make sure that you have material available online ahead of time in case a classroom needs to shut down for Covid, plus the pressure some teachers might feel about using more technology in the classroom, it makes sense teachers are facing tech fatigue. It is definitely going to be a balancing act!

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