Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Does Using Technology Lead to Better Teaching and Learning?
There has been great discussion among educators regarding how to effectively measure technology integration in the classroom. Teachers, eager to please tech-enthused administrators, might put together a "Kahoot" to quiz students or create a daily agenda in Google Docs that contain links to the various exercises, readings and tasks students will be asked to complete for the day. Students appear engaged as they spend more screen time with their digital devices during the school day. Certainly, it seems that the use of technology can increase student engagement. And if students are engaged, it means I'm teaching better and my students are learning more, right? 

Most of the time, we focus on “student engagement” as the end goal of technology integration. The use of digital tools – even at a superficial or substitution level – can appear to engage students a bit more than traditional “paper and pencil” methods. A teacher sees more students paying attention during Kahoot, and considers it to be evidence of effective use. There is nothing wrong with using "Kahoot" or Google slides in the classroom. But if engagement is how we define “better teaching and learning”, then for many (most?) teachers, a Kahoot or a Google Slide presentation with narration or music might be considered “better teaching and learning”, especially if that engagement initially leads to slightly better ‘test’ results. But is using technology to engage students really “better teaching and learning”? I don’t believe it is

Fullan, Langworthy, and Barber 2014
We need to better define and model the potential capability of educational technology to extend learning beyond the classroom. Our end goal should be to equip and empower students to apply their learning to authentic, real-world challenges. We need to provide examples and models of what deeper learning competencies look like in action. We need to emphasize that engagement or the novelty of using a digital tool is not the end, but a means to both establishing and pursuing a sense of inquiry, awe, creativity, and wonder in learning. Furthermore, when we demonstrate to students how technology integration can be the means through which their learning can be connected to their own passions and interests, we can make learning relevant and meaningful to them. We need to find ways to demonstrate the power of digital tools to extend collaboration and community to access and leverage student learning to empower them to make a substantial, positive impact within their own communities. If we can do this, then we know we are moving into considerable evidence of  better teaching and learning.