Pontfications on the field of Educational Technology and Instructional Design.

Bare with me as I ponder the meaning of education in the 21st century from the perspecitive of an instructional designer.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Let Us Plan How We May Re-Connect

After finishing with Failure to Connect: How Computers Affect Children’s Minds-For Better or Worse, I have been convinced of one Healy’s major hypothesis. This is that computer usage by children under age 7 is probably harmful unless carefully guided by a thoughtful adult. In fact, this was the point she hammered home for most of the book, somewhat neglecting the question of how technology might be properly used for older children age 7 to 18.

Healy does offer up these guidelines, however, to decide when to use technology with children. They are listed below.

Ideal Educational Technology Usage
“If a child has sufficient cognitive skills and social development,
If technology is not substituting for important developmental experience,
If we are not expecting it to do what it cannot do,
If parenting and teaching retain priority,
If the technology complements a well-planned curriculum,
If it does not steal funds from more important needs,
If we are judicious in planning and selection of software and activities,
If we don’t become seduced by flashy graphics and digital legerdemain,
If parents and teachers ware willing to provide a human “scaffold” for technology-assisted learning…then young people may profit from wise choices in this emerging field (p.245)."

Even though I am a technology teacher for middle school-age students, I find it hard to disagree with any of these points. A few rarified schools, such as Clearfield High School, do this already and are seeing amazing results.

The sad reality is that the vast majority of teachers in my experience do not follow very many of these guidelines. In fact, the sad reality would be something like this:

Typical Educational Technology Use
We don’t consider cognitive or social development issues,
Virtual developmental experiences are often easier than real ones,
We expect it to do our job by helping them research, write, and create,
We cede our guidance through thorny issues and questionable content,
We haphazardly add in computer “stuff” in place for teacher-guided lessons,
We spend inordinate amounts of money on technology without performing an analysis of teaching needs and goals,
We purchase whatever software looks the coolest, and find ways to make it fit our lessons,
We start our students on “projects” and then spend most of our time fixing technical glitches or doing personal activities.

So I am a bit skeptical, concerned, and discouraged by the current state of affairs that I have observed in the educational use of technology. What can be done? I have a few ideas.

  • First, California schools must start from the beginning and put forth a study that examines how educators are currently using technology. The study should address successful and unsuccessful schools. Then a report should be issued to the California Superintendent of schools, outlining the best ways to proceed.
  • Second, a plan should be put together containing clear standards, such as NETS, that California enthusiastically adopts and endorses. Furthermore, these standards must be implemented across the curriculum, and not just in technology classes. The plan should include standards, best practices, and recommendations and requirements for technology-assisted projects.
  • Third, statewide funding must be issued for teacher development and time needs to be set-aside for yearly training and collaboration. Related to this, basic levels of technology need to be consistently present throughout the state, and the state should monitor and help maintain adequate levels.
  • Finally, schools should be regularly monitored, evaluated, and assisted to help them meet state technology goals.

Without clear analysis of the current problems, a plan to fix them, and follow-through with training, funds, and evaluation, technology will remain a very expensive distraction to teachers and students.

  • Healy, Jane M. Failure to connect how computers affect our children's minds--for better and worse. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1998. Print.

Note: This blog post was done as the Final Blog Post #6, the final 3rd of the Book Review. It is also the final act of work I will do before being awared my MA from SDSU. Thank you TJ...!

No comments: