Integrating technology into education

This was a rather long forum post I made that I thought might do better as a blog post.

I think the biggest disconnect with teachers comes when a technological medium requires too much time to understand or maintain. That's probably part of the enthusiasm behind social networking; you have a profile page that says who you are and then you can go about communicating with people who are online in real time. It's simple and requires no technological knowledge or understanding.

Applications which are in some ways like ning will
be best for educators, as long as they save time, money and benefit students. Blackboard and moodle might be examples of how social networks or forums do well with students, but these are all unbelievably complicated programs to implement that require IT infrastructure and training which most schools can't afford. So, I think all the web technology that exists is short on practical application and high on hype. The real reason these technologies aren't being adopted rabidly is because nothing practical exists yet. The last pieces of really practical technology adopted by schools were Scantron (introduced to banks for checks) tests and the TI graphing calculators. Before that it was the copy machine.

Technology has the potential to do good things. It can save money and time, but using preexisting software that isn't designed for the purpose at hand, or doesn't have and established method for producing results in the classroom, isn't going to be adopted. I think that's why you find educators saying that a blog or a wiki is a waste of time. They're probably right. For them it is a waste of time. They either haven't created a method to implement the technology (and how could you expect them to) or the technology doesn't adapt well to the classroom. In the case of wikis and blogs I think it is a case of both being true.

What would web software look like if it were optimized for educators?

To answer this I think you need to understand what the web does on a practical level. The web distributes information at no cost or nearly no cost. OLPC (One laptop per child) is a program where low cost and free technology combine to create a replacement teacher and in doing so lowers the cost of higher quality education dramatically. In the united states the goal isn't to replace teachers, but some of the methods OLPC uses can be implemented here; primarily the distribution of information at low or no cost. Classroom materials, past tests, class notes, references, outside material. all these things can easily be made available online by teachers for their students. The work doesn't have to be done twice, if content is easily manageable then you can control when, how, where and who has access to information. I won't go on because my point is mostly that an ideal solution for teachers needs to be thought about. This is one of the primary reasons I started the International Educator Collaborative. The purpose is focus on practical and simple methods to start using modern technology in the classroom, and to determine these things through an expansive international collaborating network of educators.

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