Technology: what do teachers want?

Web2.0

Technology is omnipresent in our lives. Our young people /students use it all the time, and if we think about it, so do the older generation, although maybe to a lesser extent. Why is it that schools are, on the whole, reluctant to take it up as part of the learning and teaching in their classrooms.

Why is it that teachers today are still so reluctant to use technology in their classrooms?

This topic was discussed today in a meeting I had at my school. It has also been discussed in a number of PLP discussion forums.

There is, now, at this moment in time, a vast array of technologies that could be used in classroom/learning situations. These technologies would enable us to give students a range of ways to approach a subject/topic and a choice as to how they can show what they have learnt as well as being able to share their creations/learning beyond the classroom.

Using the appropriate technologies can motivate and engage students and allow them to combine visual, audio and text in interesting ways. It can allow them to collaborate and share ideas and thoughts about what they are learning. These technologies allow students to engage in collaborative work outside the formal classroom times.

So, why aren’t these technologies being utilised by teachers?

This led me to think about technology and what would make teachers want to use it. What attributes go into making useful technology, the sort of technology that teachers would want to use?

  • The technology must be readily available for use by teachers (and their students). The technology should not require the teacher to spend a lot of time organising the set up, changing rooms, etc. If booking the internet or equipment is required, it should be easy to do and there should be enough available so there isn’t a backlog of requests. It should be easy to start up and, if external to the school, it should be easily connected to, not requiring a technician 1/2 hour of the classroom session to set up.
  • The best technology is also standardised. The technology that a school offers must be set up using industry standards for the hardware and the software. Many of the web2.0 technologies allow users to import and use products easily. The Google apps are good examples of such technologies.
  • Good technology is also simple to set up and use. It is intuitive and does what is expected to do. These technologies should operate at the basic level very well but should allow users to develop them further for increased usefulness to classes. Visual search engines, the Wikipedias, simple English search engines are all set up to make research easier, more intuitive and in in a number of cases can allow some personalization, for instance either by adding to them or creating personal folders
  • The better technologies allow you to personalize them. These technologies allow you to choose how you use them. They can allow you to set up your own contacts and groups, put in your own tags and choose your own “look” or style.
  • The better technology is also modular and allows you take the parts you want to use. This again personalizes the package and makes it more useful to the teacher.
  • The most useful technology does what you want it to do, when you want it to.

and a last attribute that  might be seen as increasingly important, good technology is mobile

The attributes above seem obvious to me. Many web2.0 technologies fit into these 6/7 attributes. Some I have used include Flickr, Diigo, StumbleUpon, Delicious, YouTube, CreativeCommons sites and Google all offer ease of use, are standardised enough to be shared and transferred, can be personalised, etc.

Blogs,wikis, nings, etc. allow you to develop links with other professionals with shared and common interests, increasingly providing users with highly developed learning platforms. LibraryThing, Shelfari are two specific library tools I like to use. There are so many of these type of tools available.

Many people are developing and sharing add-ons that you can use to build on these technologies further. Why is it so difficult for teachers to access these whilst at school?

The filtering of so many web2.0 tools is still a major block. Many of the school-based technologies are less developed, less standardized, less able to offer many of the above “good” technology attributes. Sometimes this is because the schools cannot afford the full package and buy the cheaper (less developed/less optioned) version. This type of policy decision really needs to be thought through more carefully. It is not providing the best learning opportunities for the next generations. Authentic learning experiences are seen as part of good teaching practices. Authentic learning should involve digital technologies. It also means that many of the opportunities for creating a good platform for teaching about good digital citizenship are lost. If we are not teaching our students about how to be good digital citizens in the “real world”, the very digital real world, we are doing them a disservice. We need to be using good technology in our classrooms to provide our students with authentic engaging learning experiences. The technology is not the focus, it needs to be good and working well so that it is part of the learning fabric in our schools.

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One Response

  1. […] need to respond to the challenge. I wrote a post a while ago when I was reflecting on what teachers want from technolgy and what makes “good” technolgy. When I look around many schools don’t meet the […]

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