Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Invisible Integration: The Challenge of Communicating Progress

Lately, @jdferries and I have been doing a lot of talking about 1:1 BYOT to constituents.  One challenge of communicating progress lies in the visualization what is essentially invisible integration.  We didn't go out and buy 800 of the latest, glossy marketed shiny pretty device.  We chose the apparently radical route of encouraging choice in technology - which is exactly what all the shiny pretty marketing campaigns tell us we should do... at home.  

Let’s take a journey back in time and situate ourselves in the historical context of instructional technology.  Thanks to Rodney Earle's article, The Integration of Instructional Technology into Public Education: Promises and Challenges (2002), instructional technology has been defined as....

  • a systematic way of designing, carrying out, and evaluating the total process of learning and teaching in terms of specific objectives, based on research in human learning and communications, and employing a combination of human and nonhuman resources to bring about more effective instructions. (Commission on Instructional Technology, 1970)
  • [Instructional technology] is concerned with improving the effectiveness and efficiency of learning in educational contexts, regardless of the nature or substance of that learning. …Solutions to instructional problems might entail social as well as machine technologies. (Cassidy, 1982)
  •  Instructional technology is the theory and practice of design, development, utilization, management, and evaluation processes and resources for learning. (Seels & Richey, 1994)

  To be clever – I put the above definitions into Wordle to make my point… 

Apparently, instructional technology is all about learning.  So Mr. Earle is correct when he wrote (10 years ago), “Integration does not just mean placement of hardware in classrooms.” (Earle, 2002)

Let’s say it again shall we... “Integration does not just mean placement of hardware in classrooms”.  I couldn’t agree more.  I think I have been clear in my opinion that education is spending way too much time on the hardware (nouns).  The challenge of communicating progress with technology is… nouns are visible.  I can touch, count, take marketing photos of… hardware.   I can create push button trainings for... hardware.  I can create a single jailbreak to dismantle cameras... for hardware.  Quite frankly, just as they are the easiest part of speech to identify on a standardized test, nouns are the easiest instructional technology element to control student access, market to the school board and lecture about in trainings.

But you can ask my mother… I seldom take the easy path.

Learning is hard to photograph.  Learning is hard to control.  Heck, as current discourse shows, learning is hard to measure with any tool, test or imaging machine. Oh sure, we say learning … a lot… but reading on we get side tracked into products, devices or matrixes designed to measure learning… but we losing the subtlety of the process of learning - context/experience/reflection/action/evaluation. 

So how do we visualize verbs to showcase instructional technology for our constituents (and the occasional newspaper we are trying to encourage to cover the magic - yes you - @indystar and @criteriononline)?  Borrowing some ideas from others (most generally the Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory) here are a few ideas.

Is technology in the classroom embedded in the curricular objectives?
I’ve said it before, but the curricular objectives MUST dictate tools used.  More often than not, a highly integrated classroom will have students working with a varied of tools at a variety of stages.  I am most concerned when I see a room where every eye is glued to a screen.  State of the Art is not shiny pretty, silver screens broadcasting the same information, in the same mode to all students.

*This does require someone walking into a classroom - not just reading aggregate data in a spreadsheet.

Problem solving and higher order thinking is evident in classroom activities.
Notice the “classroom activities” part of this one.  Not in the homework.  Not in the assessment.  In the actual, observable activity taking place in the classroom, students are synthesizing, suggesting solutions, experimenting.  These classrooms are often loud, with students working with a variety of tools.  To some, this might look like chaos.  (These pictures seldom make the newspaper except for articles with the title “Kids Today!”)

*Again, this does require someone walking into a classroom - not just reading aggregate data in a spreadsheet.

Students independently chose the technologies appropriate to their learning objectives.
You knew I’d get to BYOT eventually!  This is part of that “problem solving” piece.  It takes a high degree of critical thinking to determine the best tool for the job.  Empowering student to make that choice is no longer an option.  Instructional technology as "concerned with improving the effectiveness and efficiency of learning in educational contexts" is not just the arena of PD officers and teachers.  State of the Art is allowing for differentiated content acquisition/engagement modes and individualized demonstration of mastery .

*Yet again, this does require someone walking into a classroom - not just reading aggregate data in a spreadsheet.

As we like to say around here - integration is happening best when it's invisible...and not a classroom full of hardware. Communicating progress in a noun driven world though... that's a real challenge.

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