How Might Learning with Technology Look Different If….


In recent posts I’ve written about the importance of vision and the need for leaders to anchor conversations around technology use in that vision. After the most recent post, Gary Stager shared an article he wrote titled Outside the Skinner Box: Can Education Technology Make a Course Correction?

The article is a “must read” and rich in ideas and classroom vignettes. What struck me most were the parts related to vision, leadership and professional development. These excerpts helped strengthened my thinking and prompted me to develop a series of How might… questions I will use in my practice. The questions are easily transferred to any leadership context, so I hope others will use and modify them – maybe even share out some new ones. Below are the questions paired with each excerpt from Stager’s article.

How might learning with technology look different if we asked principals and teachers to think about who is granted agency by the hardware and software in our classrooms/systems? What would we learn? How might we lead when learner agency is least impacted?

In schools, all hardware and software bestow agency on one of three parties: the system, the teacher, or the learner. Typically, two of these actors lose their power as the technology benefits the third. Ask a group of colleagues to create a three-column table and brainstorm the hardware or software in your school and who is granted agency by each. Management software, school-wide grade-book programs, integrated learning systems, school-to-home communication packages, massive open online courses (MOOCs), and other cost-cutting technologies grant maximum benefit to the system. Interactive whiteboards, worksheet generators, projectors, whole-class simulations, plagiarism software, and so on, benefit the teacher. Personal laptops, programming languages, creativity software, cameras, MIDI keyboards, microcontrollers, fabrication equipment, and personal web space primarily benefit (bestow agency to) the learner.

How might learning with technology look different if every educator (teachers and leaders) held a bold but fluid vision for learning with technology?

Schools need a bolder concept of what computing can mean in the creative and intellectual development of young people. Such a vision must be consistent with the educational ­ideals of a school. In far too many cases, technology is used in ways contrary to the stated mission of the school. At no point should technology be used as a substitute for competent educators or to narrow educational experiences. The vision should not be rigid, but needs to embrace the serendipitous discoveries and emerging technologies that expand the power of our goals.

How might learning with technology look different if every school and school system had a leader that promoted the vision and removed barriers to its enactment?

Once a vision of educational technology use is established, school leadership needs to model that approach, enact rituals and practices designed to reinforce it, and lend a coherent voice leading the entire community in a fashion consistent with its vision to improve the lives of young people. Great leaders recognize the forces that water down innovation and enact safeguards to minimize such inertia

How might learning with technology look different if our professional learning reflected the vision for learning in the classroom?

You cannot be expected to teach 21st-century learners if you have not learned in this century. Professional development strategies need to focus on creating the sorts of rich constructive learning experiences schools desire for students, not on using computers to perform clerical tasks. We must refrain from purchasing “teacher-proof” curricula or technology and then acting surprised when teachers fail to embrace it. PD needs to stop rewarding helplessness and embrace the competence of educators.

Together, these are powerful questions that can transform systems. Be sure to read Stager’s article and discover vignettes of these ideas in practice. As leaders, we then need to ask, Why not in my school/district?

What big questions are you asking about the use of technology for learning?

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One comment

I am a preschool teacher and I am interested in using technology in the classroom. I struggle with knowing what the balance should be. Teaching Strategies Gold is the assessment that we use and it has an objective for using technology but it is very vague. Some local and state officials and monitors warn about screen time. I want to be current but also respect the natural ways in which children learn. Any suggestions regarding lap tops, Smart Boards and tablets would be appreciated. I am also interested in STEM at the preschool level so any connection to that would be welcome.

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