Educational Technology in Technology Education

I was having a read through some textbooks recently and I came across a certain reference to “Educational Technology”, something that just carried through nearly every page of the book. It was constantly nagging and provoking me as a reader and a teacher to “use it” and “embrace it” but it never actually arrived at the how, the why, the where or most importantly. The what.

Educational Technology is a current catch phrase used to cast a wide net, over a large group of concepts and practices relating to technology usage in the classroom. Educational Technology can be anything from electronic learning systems to blogging platforms or even just a YouTube link. Theoretically, if it can be used to support a student in the learning process (regardless of by how much), then it is Educational Technology. However, technology and the respective application of the technology can change quickly.

Take the IPod for example. The iPod is now over a decade old and has undergone a drastic change in how it is received in the classroom. In 2005, it was banned from a variety of schools across the country. One argument was that it allowed students to become anti-social. Yet more recently, some schools have been promoting the fact they are now a welcome learning tool in the classroom. After further research, there is little mention of including the IPod within a technology classroom. What was evident, was the constant promotion of its use in alternate fields such as math and science. This I believe is due to the current social expectation that within a Technology class such as “Information Software Technology”, educational technology should be at its most obvious form. But is it?

The statement on Technology for Australian Schools was published in 1994 and remains the same today. It is (basically) a manual for teachers on what to expose to students in regards to technology. Technology that has not been revised in 10 years is commonly referred to as “obsolete”, yet somehow we as teachers are still being driven by the content devised by the Australian Education Council (AEC), 17 years ago. One could argue that this is possible because of the broad manner in which the documents were written. The document uses ideas and theories rather than examples and demonstrations, for example an expectation of the AEC is “To develop in students the skills of analysis and problem-solving”. This example is then demonstrated in the IST syllabus, slightly re-worded and expanded as outcomes: 4 and 5. 1.1, 1.2, 2.1, 2.2 and .2.3. That is great and all, but what impact does this document really have on the IST classroom?

The statement on Technology for Australian schools and the IST Syllabus do not actually address the concept of Educational Technology because they are concerned only with what is to be learned rather than how. This is an ever growing problem which is only becoming more and more evident in every classroom around the country. This is creating a problem for students, teachers and parents where technology is evolving past the knowledge and capability of the teachers. However, this is only a problem because the teachers who do not possess this ability are often not obligated, supported or engaged enough to address it.

This is most evident at a local high school, where for three years a teacher who had little understanding of Educational Technology, taught the Information Software Technology class. The teaching methods used by this teacher included having students copy notes from PowerPoint slides (directly copied from Wikipedia articles relating to the outcome “learn to” and “learn about”) that were projected onto a wall every lesson. “Practical” tasks were internet derived research tasks that resulted in the students browsing the web until their learning was “supplemented” with find a words and crossword puzzles to fill remaining time. The really scary thing as a teacher, is that this can theoretically be classed as using and implementing “Educational Technology”.

The content and framework provided by the AEC, similarly to the Adelaide Declaration, focus only on what a student should learn with no consideration for how the student should be learning it. While it is the responsibility of the teacher to cater to all styles of learning (VAK), greater support surrounding ICT classroom engagement would allow teachers within a school and faculty to provide a more even and engaged lesson to all students. It would also remove the ability for teachers who employ poor ICT education techniques such as this, to be classed as “Innovative” by those teachers who simply do not possess the technical expertise to differentiate between overall laziness, and true classroom innovation.

A Technology classroom is the one place you would expect to see the most use of educational technology, yet Information Technology staffrooms are still purchasing toner for photocopy machines. Even with the introduction of Moodle and SharePoint solutions, some technology teachers are not using them to their full potential in technology classes, let alone math and science classes. As a result, these resources are effectively wasted as the students miss out and the teachers are branded as technical geniuses.

My current understanding of using educational technology within technology education is not overly positive, yet it is possible to step past my own naivety to see the other side of the argument.

Teachers do not always have the time, the resources or the support to learn all the different aspects of current technological trends and decipher how best to integrate that into their classroom. Some teachers do their best to accommodate technology in the classroom but cannot consistently do so. Additionally, it is a fact that technology can be costly, and as such less likely to be kept current or updated in our schools. This means that even the teachers who do their best to utilise Educational Technology are forced into educational mediocrity by not having the resources or power to utilise the new technology available.

While they are all readily available and occasionally understandable excuses, my understanding of Educational Technology in Technology Education is unwavering in the lack of empathy for unmotivated, uneducated and unengaged teachers failing not only our students, but also our reputation as educators. The aforementioned IST teacher is one in a line of many that write programs and units of work centred on utilising technology to the bare minimum with no real concept of depth.

This blame however cannot always be placed upon the teachers. The Institute of Teachers must also take credit for the haphazard integration of educational technology in technology education. The professional teaching standards require that graduate teachers have “Basic operational skills” in regards to ICT skills (1.1.4). Yet the AEC state that “people need to understand technology, and be confident and capable users of a wide range of technological applications”. The failure of the AEC is further shown by the majority of the Design and Technology Teaching Students currently attending the University of Newcastle. The majority of these students, (the same people completing the same degree as I) just learned, in their final year at University, how to use online tools to create a basic webpages within a content management system. How can these teachers then be expected to implement high technology engagement in classes using Educational Technology?

It is a hard choice between providing teachers with ample leeway to find uses for technology, and forcing a teacher to learn and adopt new ways of teaching using specified technology. However, the current way in which there is no overriding standard to how teachers should be using this technology creates a barrier between the current generation of teachers, and the next generation of teachers and students. Teachers need to be further educated in aspects of ICT multiliteracy and recognise that not all resources created on a computer are “Innovative”.

 

References

AAP. (2006, May 4). Tas school first to use iPods in class. Retrieved May 9, 2011, from Nine News: http://news.ninemsn.com.au/technology/98595/tas-school-first-to-use-ipods-in-class

AEC. (1994). A Statement on Technology for Australian Schools. Carlton: Curriculum Corporation.

Board of Studies. (2003). Information and Software Technology Syllabus: Years 7–10. Ryde: Board of Studies.

Doherty, L., & Baker, J. (2005, March 25). No more songs in their pockets: school bans iPods. Sydney Morning Herald.

Education Services Australia. (1999, July 28). The Adelaide eclaration on National Goals for Schooling in the Twenty – First Century. Retrieved April 1, 2011, from Education Services Australia: http://www.curriculum.edu.au/mceetya/nationalgoals/natgoals.htm

Honey, M., Spielvogel, R., & McMillan Culp, K. (2005). Critical Issue: Using Technology to Improve Student Achievement. Retrieved May 4, 2011, from North Central Regional Educational Laboratory: http://www.ncrel.org/sdrs/areas/issues/methods/technlgy/te800.htm

Jonassen, D. H. (2006). Modeling with Technology: Mindtools for Conceptual Change. Missouri: Allyn & Bacon.

McKenzie, J. (2008, May). What Digital Age? The Dducational Technology Journal, 17(5).

NSW Institute Of Teachers. (n.d.). Professional Teaching Standards.

Schlender, B. (2001, November 12). Apple’s 21st-Century Walkman CEO Steve Jobs thinks he has something pretty nifty. And if he’s right, he might even spook Sony and Matsushita. Fortune Magazine.

The University of Newcastle. (2008). I Want To Be a Teacher: Beginning the Professional Journey. Sydney: Pearson Education Australia.

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