Bridging the gap between technology’s promise and real classroom outcomes.
GUEST COLUMN | by Jon Roepke
Technology in education has the power to completely transform our understanding of the classroom —the power to improve digital literacy, collaboration and aid critical thinking. But technology alone isn’t the answer. Technology should be understood as a tool by which teachers and young minds can learn more, learn faster, and learn interactively together. In order to reach those education outcomes—at home and around the world—we need to bridge the gap between the promise of technology and its classroom application. Three years ago, our education technology team recognized this technology gap as we conducted primary research in classrooms around the country. This firsthand experience taught us that teachers and students both need an education in technology—and the necessary support structure—in order to achieve outcomes through technology. It is also vital for educators to invest in and effectively use the right tools to maximize ROI (return on investment) and ROE (return on education). This leads to greater learning outcomes, and improved teaching and learning efficiencies.
Teachers and students both need an education in technology—and the necessary support structure—in order to achieve outcomes through technology.
As we move through this still-new school year, I wanted to share some thoughts about maximizing the potential of technology to enhance and advance education. First, it’s important to deploy the right tools to meet objectives. One-device-fits-all doesn’t work, and different objectives require different tools. Educators should first ask important questions such as:
- What is our instructional model and how can technology support it?
- How will mobile technology use integrate with schools’ educational mission statements?
- How, if at all, should our approach to education change based on technological capabilities?
- What is our long-term vision for technology in and outside of the classroom?
If objectives are clearly defined, then more specific device questions can be answered. At a base level, educational technology should help enable experiences that differentiate, increase, and enhance instruction and student engagement. If appropriate, schools should consider a diversified deployment model. Thinking beyond “all-tablets” or “all-chromebooks” encourages flexibility of teaching and learning. I think it’s also important that we ensure the appropriate technical infrastructure exists to support and manage new technology. Unfortunately, today, Education Superhighway estimates that 63 percent of schools don’t have adequate Internet infrastructure for the current needs. To improve learning outcomes, we need to ensure schools have robust, secure wireless networks with reliable connectivity and adequate bandwidth. Education systems also need policies in place for appropriate technology use and means to efficiently maintain devices and systems. Beyond infrastructure, education systems need to also implement training and support structure to aid the adoption of technology. Organizational change requires adequate training and support, but “training” is not a one day workshop at the start of each school year—ongoing training should be scheduled throughout the year to manage the onboarding and troubleshooting process. Teacher support groups and regional education technology conferences are also great opportunities for schools, where teachers can exchange experiences, share their successes, and learn from each other. Once technological capabilities are aligned with education objectives and infrastructure and training is in place, it’s time to infuse technology into teaching and learning—in and outside of the classroom. It’s important to understand the full spectrum of technology integration in educational environments and acknowledge that integration is often best serviced as an evolutionary process rather than revolutionary one. Building organizational confidence and working through system issues helps reduce stress and allows everyone involved to develop a sense of enthusiasm for new technology. I believe Dr. Ruben Puentedura’s SAMR model is a good framework for rolling out technology in the classroom. The SAMR model sets out a hierarchy of tech integration to first enhance current practices and then transform them into entirely new (better) practices. The SAMR model follows four key levels of implementation:
- Technology steps in as a “tool substitute”, such as eBooks replacing textbooks in class
- Technology substitutes not only replace older learning tools, but they offer functional advancements to improve experience, such as eBook dictionary functions
- Technology functionality also significantly redesigns tasks or our previous approach to learning and capturing content/data, such as using an app to compose and record audio, video, and annotations
- Finally, technology enables us to take on previously inconceivable tasks and to redefine how learning tools are made, such as creating, presenting, and publishing media-rich eBooks for enriched learning experiences
I’m not sure anyone today can fully predict where technology will lead education. But by understanding technology as a tool, investing in infrastructure and training resources, and aligning our educational objectives with the right devices, we can bridge the gap between what technology promises and what it actually provides.
Jon Roepke is the director of product management for Belkin International, Inc. He leads the creation and fulfillment of new business ventures, and helps define and develop technology solutions, including mobile apps and hardware for next-gen learning environments in partnership with Apple, Samsung, Google and other core technology leaders. Follow @Belkin
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