Saturday, January 27, 2007

Is technology integration viable in 2007 at the K12 Level?

True integation of technology sounds great, but is it viable in 2007 at the K12 level? According to Chayefsky, “When seamless technology integration is a priority, sound scientific research shows that students begin taking greater responsibility for their own education, teachers become facilitators instead of lecturers, classrooms become dynamic and flexible environments that develop a love of learning and knowledge. And technology integration naturally develops critical thinking skills.” Nevertheless, almost at every turn it seems like someone is setting up roadblocks or trying to sabotage the integration of technology in the name of student or network safety. When network protocols are not data driven or planned carefully they greatly interfere with the learning process and the use of technology. In many cases these premature measures actually prevent teachers from utilizing technology in a proficient manner. What do I mean?

Most teachers are digital immigrants, yet some have been able to keep up with technology better than a lot of digital natives (i.e. students and new teachers) especially when it comes to emergent technologies. As educators these teachers have and continue to devote a great deal of personal time helping students work with technology. They have their students using blogs, wikis, presentation software, podcasts and videocasts. Unfortunately, just about the time students get acclimated to the software and begin to move forward with these technologies they are often stopped in their tracks in the name of student or network safety. Understandably, we have to have safety nets in place for the sake our networks and our students, but the safety nets that we put in place should be strategically placed and evaluated by tech savvy educators before they are implemented into the school setting.

Why are such controls implemented? More often than not individuals that know little about technology implement controls bureaucratically after consulting only the IT department. These controls more often than not are based on hearsay rather than data driven. These are generally networking controls and are often counterproductive to student learning. They are like the email that we get that warns us of some malicious virus that will meltdown our computers if we open it. You know the one I’m talking about, the one that nine times out of ten turns out to be a hoax, but people still feel like they have to warn us without checking for factuality. Unfortunately, unlike the hoax email that we can simply dismiss, delete, or validate as a hoax, these network controls are network embedded IT measures that burden the most innovative of educators. As such, the integration of technology into the classroom in a Web 2.0 format may not be currently viable in many systems.

If educators are just using technology for word processing, presentations, and random Internet research, they could care less about unneeded safety measures. However, some educators spend at great deal of personal time designing blogs, wikis, websites, and other applications for students to better prepare them for our global economy only to be denied access to controls that allow software instillation on their classroom machines or lab computers. Understandably, students should have limited abilities on network machines, but most teachers on the other hand should have administrative privileges that allow them to use the machines in a productive manner. Imagine telling software engineers that they had to call the IT department or submit a work order anytime they wanted to test new software on their computers. The software engineers’ work would come to an abrupt standstill and productivity would be nonexistent.

In our schools these limitations are implemented sporadically and many educators rather than embracing technology are simply refusing to use it in their classrooms. Can you blame them? In many cases it would be easier and a lot less stressful to just go back to using the chalkboard and overhead. The irony of it all is that the same individuals creating these limitations are the ones that keep asking educators to implement technology into the pedagogy. It’s like asking a carpenter to build a house, and then taking away his tools after he begins the job. It would be preposterous to expect a carpenter to build a house without the proper tools, but in many systems teachers are expected to implement technologies efficiently without sufficient access. True intregation of technology into the classroom sounds great, but is it viable in 2007? I’d like to think that it is, but I often wonder. I suppose that I will keep on keeping on for the sake of my students, but I will also continue to question unnecessary security measures and protocols.

William Bishop (Bill)

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