Staff development experts have been tracking teacher adaptation as technology has moved into classrooms. Technology is transforming education unlike any trend that has preceded it -- but how do educators take such revolutionary tools and use them to optimize learning? Included: A real-world model for teachers adapting technology to the classroom
Technology is transforming education. Teachers have access to more information, more ways to interact and collaborate, and more approaches to instruction than ever before. Technology can enable teachers to accommodate a variety of orientations to learning, track student progress, remediate struggling students, and challenge advanced learners. Traditional barriers no longer restrain educators from meeting the needs of every child.
And children are reaping the benefits of the digital explosion!
Combine the boom in instructional technology and the trend of constructivism and you have a potent mixture. Through this alchemy we are witnessing professionals who use technology in constructivist ways -- techno-constructivists!
A FOUR-STAGE MODEL
Connected University's Scott Noon offers a framework for considering the stages of teacher assimilation to new technologies. His model is based on his active participation in teacher technology training. That model identifies four stages of teacher technology efficacy:
QUESTION YOUR ASSUMPTIONS
"Technology does not necessarily improve education. It could become a valuable education tool, but only if we use it to capitalize on our new understanding of how the human mind works." -- Shirley Veenema and Howard Gardner, Multimedia and Multiple Intelligences
In order to begin this journey, teachers must first question their assumptions about children and learning. What was true 50 years ago at the height of the industrial age may no longer be viable today.
Here are some questions to reflect upon:
There has been a groundswell of brain research over the last 30 years. The medical and educational communities, once disparate professions, now have common ground in addressing the physiological evidence for human cognition. Experts once made assumptions based on observable overt human behavior; now experts base their conclusions on specific centers of the brain and the neurological paths information takes to arrive there. The Encyclopedia of the Cognitive Sciences documents these newfound discoveries for us. With that information, we can reconsider many long held assumptions about instruction, learning, and assessment.
A large proportion of the jobs available in the workforce are related to the acquisition and manipulation of digital knowledge. Workers need to be able to access information, evaluate it for its worth, use it in creative ways, and be flexible enough to change their work product as the information changes. These jobs will go unfilled if this need is not addressed today in the schools. The time is now.
Once a teacher immerses himself or herself in technology and accepts the knowledge of human cognition and the needs of the future information economy, the remaining questions are the most vital: What are you willing to rethink and what do you need to hold onto with fierce conviction? The answers will vary for each teacher based on his or her own experiences, for teachers -- like everyone else -- need to build their own meanings and create a framework that will work for them.
Once they have answers to those questions, though, teachers are ready to meet the information age on their own terms.
THE TECHNO-CONSTRUCTIVIST IN ACTION
Should all teachers aspire to becoming techno-constructivists? Yes, most definitely. In the ongoing dialogue on public education, teachers have no greater tool of empowerment and efficacy than technology used constructively with students.
But what does the techno-constructivist teacher look like?
There is no one concise answer. Techno-constructivists are as many and as varied as the assortment of whole language teachers or effective school models we have seen over the last 20 years. But here are wonderful examples of the kinds of activities techno-constructivists undertake in their classrooms:
They create collaborative online projects that involve students in long-term problem-solving and product-generating tasks that utilize Internet resources and a variety of digital communications. (See Creating Internet Projects and Students and Class Projects Using the Internet for ideas.)
More than anything else, techno-constructivists willing allow their students to completely immerse themselves in the affordances of technology. They allow their students to see the connections they can make using electronic mail, Web sites, multi-user environments, databases, spreadsheets, publishers, word processors, and more, and they support them and help them successfully complete their tasks.
BEGIN THE JOURNEY
"Childhood is a journey, not a race." -- Society for Developmental Education
More than anything else, becoming a techno-constructivist is an attitude. It is the ability to open up to the new possibilities presented in this age of wonder. No matter what stage of life we are in, let us begin the journey. We will not all start at the same point, nor will we all finish at the same place. But together we can embrace the technological revolution to truly benefit all members of our society.
Recall the educational pioneers of the past. How would they react to the advances in this day and age? Would they question the worth of technology and shun its potential or take the challenge and try to harness what it has to offer for the benefit of everyone concerned? Question your long-held assumptions. Slowly work your way through the four stages identified by Scott Noon, and be patient with yourself! Evolve as an educator by transforming your experiences with children from the mundane to the magnificent! Let the journey begin.
"Let others praise ancient times; I am glad I was born in these." -- Ovid
ADDITIONAL ONLINE RESOURCES
Related Articles from Education World
Article by Walter McKenzie
Copyright © 2000 Education World