Monday, March 5, 2012

Pedagogy First, Tech Second

I was reading a blog article by Darren Coxon about his travels through an iPad deployment.  The intent of the article was to save others from having the same frustrations as his school had, which is great sharing. What hit me, however, as a key point was in this passage:

"There are some schools that went all out, investing in one iPad per student from day one, but I have been to some of these schools and they are not using the iPad in a way that can be truly transformative. For me, it is about more than just the device; it is about getting the infrastructure in place. And this does not only mean things like wireless: it includes the intellectual, pedagogical infrastructure that brings with it an understanding of both the benefits and pitfalls of bringing these devices into the classroom. They have the powers to be truly game changing, but only if they are handled correctly. Remember the interactive whiteboard when it was first brought in? We thought it would change things completely. The reason it did not was that no one really thought through the pedagogy behind it. It became a glorified, expensive projector, little more. The iPad has the capacity to become nothing more than a glorified iPhone without the phone, or a nice way to look online."

Darren, you hit the nail on the head.  Don't get me wrong....I think technology rocks....but only when it fundamentally changes the thinking and learning of the students.  If we are going to have students taking lecture notes on an iPad or netbook, does that really change the learning?  Perhaps, as the students can collaboratively share the notes and hopefully build some knowledget together, but is that really a game changer?  If we have students taking quizzes with clickers rather than paper, does that change their learning?  Perhaps, as the teacher can get quicker results, but is it a major game changer?  If we have students playing an iPad app for Everyday Math instead of the same game with cards and paper, are we really changing what they are learning?

What I really see as the value of technology is when it allows students to think and learn in ways they could not otherwise do. For example, if we have students in the United States collaboratively trying to solve a water pollution problem in a third world country with students in that country, now THAT is a game changer!  How else could they get first hand knowledge of the problem?  How else could they see how their ideas would be feasible in another country?  Without the technology, they could not complete this task at the same level.

I would love to hear more examples of how technology is being used to really raise the level of thinking and learning of students.  What are you all doing out there to accomplish this?  What are the students doing differently?  Could they do that same thinking and learning without the technology?