In reading the Voogt et al. (2018) article, I was struck by how measured her writing was in addressing technology in education. This was refreshing in the face of the inundation of articles espousing the “amazing” opportunities that technology offers students in their learning. What we as teachers all know and understand is that technology, whether it is a pencil or a smart phone, is a tool to help people. Technology itself does not “make” a person learn – it requires a user’s input to be useful. Voogt et al. also allows for uncertainty in making broad statements about the effectiveness of technology in education. For example, Voogt writes, “Research now clearly shows that digital technologies can support students to engage collaboratively to become innovative and creative and in the creation of new knowledge and the development of new skills (Ito et al. 2013; Scardamalia and Bereiter 2015). It is still the case, however, that many young people use new technologies only to consume information.” (my italics) Voogt et al. (2018)
I also appreciated that this was a comparison both of the first and second editions of the Handbook of Information Technology in Primary and Secondary Education, as well as the changes in technology in that ten year time span.
From the University of Amsterdam website, part of the biography for Dr. Voogt says, “Voogt also researches in what way and under what conditions ICT can increase the appeal, efficiency and/or effectiveness of education. A focus area of her research is the professional development of the teacher. This is because teachers – irrespective of whether they have just completed their teacher training programme or have extensive teaching experience – have been inadequately trained to use ICT for teaching and learning, and ICT applications are not always compatible with the educational views of teachers and schools. Her research on the integration of ICT in education and teacher professional development focuses on co-designing and evaluating interventions that can help reduce the gap between the potential of ICT and the actual use of ICT in teaching practice.” (my bold) University of Amsterdam [Website]. (2013, November 11)
It is significant that Dr. Voogt sees that often, teachers do not have the adequate training to use ICT for teaching and learning. This means that it is not automatic that the technology would be used optimally or properly. A relevant recent example that is also personal, is when the Ministry of Education in B.C. brought in the New Curriculum for K-12. From a macro level of implementation, this was problematic. At the high school level, many significant changes happened, and in the English department, there was a complete overhaul. English 10 was no longer English 10, but divided into five possible streams: Composition, Literature, Creative Writing, Spoken, and New Media. Whereas the old English 10 was a normal, four-credit course, the new configuration split the five streams into two-credit courses. The idea would be that students would choose two “halves” and that teachers would have their teaching assignments split into streams that they wanted. Logistically for timetabling, this was a nightmare for the administration to work out. Optically, this was giving students “choice.” The reality was that “choice” was limited to what the teachers wanted to teach.
On a micro level, this was, except for the Literature stream, going to mean that entire new programs of curriculum had to be constructed by the teachers. For me personally, I decided to try teaching the New Media 10 course. I had used media in my classes many times, and incorporated a mini media unit as well. While the union bargained to accrue two “Curriculum Implementation” days per year to help in planning for the new courses, it was not nearly enough to create a new course from scratch. I found out almost immediately that I had neither the training, nor the time, to make well-planned, useful activities and assignments. I told the students that they were my “guinea pigs,” because I was trying most things out for the first time. This type of teaching and learning is unfair to all involved, but this is how the Ministry rolled out their vision – we decide, you figure it out. Still now, three years in, the New Curriculum courses in English are a mess. Every year, a new iteration is tried because the last one did not work. And who loses? The students.
Shifting now to the other articles, as there was a good discussion on Tuesday about the merits of SAMR. In reading Hamilton, E.R., Rosenberg, J.M. & Akcaoglu, M. (2016), I began to see how the SAMR model is not exclusive to technology, especially as it applies to the classroom. In the article, the example used for Redefinition, which was to have students make a video instead of writing a persuasive essay, could be achieved without technology. That is, it could have be acted out live in front of the class instead of using the technology of the video camera and editing programs.
Certainly in many classrooms, teachers are implementing all levels of the SAMR model, depending on the content. In the end, the questions to be answered are, “How does this affect the students’ learning?” and “How do we measure the students’ learning?” Is success measured in measurable outcomes, like quizzes and tests? What if those results are not seen in the time period allotted for a course? What if a student really absorbs the material after the course is over? Is that not success?
The “limitations” of SAMR are addressed in TPACK. As Mishra et al. (2009) state, the interactions between content, pedagogy and technology produce a different “product” or activity each time. And on top of the three main factors, one needs to acknowledge “students” as another factor. The best marriage of content, pedagogy and technology will not be successful without student active participation.
As teachers we are progressing through a time of change in both how technology is changing what we do, but also how society views technology both inside and outside the classroom. If society is a reflection of technology, then the open and free nature of the internet has forced societies to be more open and free. As this trickles down into the classroom, there is much unease with that open and free nature pushing the teacher’s place and status. What we are seeing is a pushing back; teachers are seeing that the freedom that comes with having technology (having a smartphone with access to the internet) is not always beneficial. Again, from a personal perspective, I employ a “phone caddy,” which is a holder for student phones at the front of the class. By having students putting their phones in the caddy at the beginning of class, they have more time to spend on what is happening in class, rather than what is happening on their phones. Why is this necessary? Why not have them leave their phones in their backpacks or pockets? That is an obvious answer.