Is the technology being developed for use in our schools, currently heads above what most teachers understand and could effectively use in their classrooms? And if this is so, should it be used? And if it is to be used, how should it be used? What would be most effective for the instructor and the class?

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Good discussion. I am coming late to the party. I am an instructional technology specialist who believes that the judicious use of technology can motivate kids and support any number of educational goals. But, I get frustrated trying to sell it to my teachers. I don't mind defending classroom teachers having spent a good deal of time as one myself.

As for the "lack of time" issue. Some of this is perception on the part of the overburdened teacher (schools are asked to do more and more as Tom eluded to in an earlier post) and some of it is simply fact.

In my state (CT) teachers hump to cover the material that kids are going to be tested on in elem, middle, and high school. I don't blame them for feeling that they can't "give up" the time to do a project with me. And, let's be honest about this, as a rule it takes longer and is generally more complicated to do a technology supported project than a "typical" project. We are disingenuous when we try to tell staff otherwise.

In some ways, technology is "not ready for prime time" in education. Consider that much software is developed by programmers who understand the way the application functions as well as how to use the interface. That doesn't mean that its clear to the less technical individual in spite of being labeled a "user friendly application." There is always a learning curve. I spend a good deal of my time re-learning applications and creating tutorials and trainings for teachers and staff.

We should be more circumspect about what we (educational technologists) ask teachers to learn. I think basic online tools represent some of the best and most useful applications. Blogs, wikis, social bookmarking ( try Furl or Magnolia if Delicious is too difficult), search engines and online databases are enough and are basic. Will they meet every teacher's need, in every subject, no, but they will be very useful to many teachers much of the time. I'd be quite happy if I could convince most of my staff about the value in using basic Web 2 tools.

I think that in education we embraced technology without truly considering its impact. But then, we do the same in western societies generally. We suffer from "technolophilia." There is a long history of cultures thinking that technology would be the solution to a given problem, only to find out that a new set of problems resulted. How many schools got wired, put computers in classrooms or labs, and failed to hire IT staff? Lots.

I don't think technology should be invisible or seamless, but a teacher should (at least initially) consider whether or not a particular technologically based activity, device, program, peripheral is the best choice and what the trade-off will be. Will the additional time be worth trading for greater depth, for instance? Will it provide the additional engagement that students need to work through a difficult task? Perhaps, but there's no guarantee.

I deeply resent the impact that testing has had on the culture of education. What is most shocking is that it is politically driven, and not educationally sound beyond a certain point. And we passed that point some years ago.

If you want teachers to use technology and spend more time teaching with it, unburden them. Give them more latitude. Give them a curriculum with depth, not the mile-wide, inch-deep layer of trivia we test. The culture has to change, then the teachers will change.

In the meantime, I will keep plugging away and making inroads where I can, working with those teachers who can "steal" the time, or are willing to give up a few days here and there to try a different approach.
Tom, I often consider solutions to making the technology experience better in school, and often come out of thought with the realization that the technology is sometimes not the problem... it's the situation you describe of time, and depth vs. breadth focus.

More and more I convince myself that a) more teachers (smaller class sizes), b) more professional time for planning and collaborating, and c) better access would not only affect the use of technology by teachers and their students, but also the quality of the teaching experience, the amount of project-based learning, and inevitably, student outcomes.
John, I don't mean to contradict or be argumentative but I think you could give some teachers 15 kids, 2 hours of plan a day, a classroom full of the latest gadgets and a computer for everybody and they still wouldn't get it. I restate my earlier point---the money, machines and time should be given to the teachers who use technology to enhance their curriculum and stimulate student learning. .
I LOVE your question and think the same thing everyday. I am the instructional Technology Coach for my district. I also see these new technologies being introduced too quickly in the twitter/blogosphere. I've gotten to the point where I call these, the "flavor of the month". On top of being introduced too quickly and over teachers heads, most are blocked by filters in our district. We have a strict policy against students accessing socila networking sites; everyone has been Datelined to death are are afraid a molester will pop out of a locker if we try to teach our kids how to use these tools EFFECTIVELY AND RESPONSIBLY.
The best thing I hope to do is to have teachers use these tools to better their own professionalism so they can start thinking about how they can be used in the class. If teachers themselves don't get it, why and how would they teach their students....

Again, GREAt question!
Our district has recently introduced new filters onto our servers which have caused some grumbling against the staff. Currently, if I want a site unblocked I need to explain to a technician the educational value of that site, they then decide to unblock it or not. Nothing against our IT staff, I just have a problem defending my educational professionalism to them. I had to fight to get Google Docs unblocked.
Same problem here, not just with sites being unblocked. Non instructional personel making instructional desicions.
I agree about supervision, but schools need to really assess the two options about site blocking. I agree that no matter what certains will need to be blocked. However by imposing limits on students we are not providing an important opportunity to instruct them on choice, and how to make good choices. When the time comes, and they are out from our thumbs they will not have the skills needed to make good choices for themselves.
My question to the IT then is, why does software not allow teachers that level of control? Is there unseen problems, or issues?
Stu, ignore Dateline and take a look at Growing Up Online a Frontline (PBS) program broadcast about two months ago. You can watch it online in segments. The program does a great job demonstrating the significance of online social networking in kids' lives. It also authoritatively dispels a number of myths including the sensationalized "online predator" myth. The statistics don't support the media's obsession with it, and kids are more savvy then we think.

I am going to recommend it (Growing Up Online) to parents at an Internet Safety presentation I will be part of next month. Its not that there are no dangers, just that the more serious ones get overshadowed by the sensational.

I do think that its time for another look at the whole internet filtering, blocking issue. It can't simply be an "all or nothing" approach to social networking, etc. There are safe ways to use the tools, but access is essential.

I couldn't agree more with your "flavor of the month" analogy. We really have to take a long look at things before we roll them out to teachers. I don't think Twitter, for instance, would get anywhere, I mean NO WHERE, in my district.
Well put indigo. Poor choice of words, on my part. By "long" I meant thoughtful, measured, not a long time from now...

Its part of our bias (I know that I am guilty) toward technology that we get excited about something, see its potential, and open the gates...Then I'm left wondering what the hell happened. Why didn't this blogging (wiki, fill in the blank) thing take off?

What would an "organized systematic approach to evaluating new products from both pedagogical and technical angles," look like in your district? Or, what would it look like ideally? Who should be involved? How long would it take to get from concept/idea to implementation?
Oh, I've watched it, and it is GREAT. But one show on PBS does nothing compared with the mass media. How do you disseminate that message to those that have Dateline syndrome?
I wish I had a good answer to that one, but I don't.

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