If we were really serious about educational technology

If we were really serious about educational technology, we would… [here are 10 to get you started]

  • show students how to edit their privacy settings and use groups in Facebook instead of banning online social networks because they’re ‘dangerous’ and/or ‘frivolous’;
  • teach students to understand and contribute to the online information commons rather than ‘just saying no’ to Wikipedia;
  • put a robust digital learning device into every student’s hands (or let them bring and use their own) instead of pretending that we live in a pencil, notebook paper, and ring binder world;
  • Students working on class assignment in computer labphoto © 2006 Michael Surran | more info (via: Wylio)integrate digital learning and teaching tools into subject-specific preservice methods courses rather than marginalizing instructional technology as a separate course;
  • understand the true risk of students encountering online predators and make policy accordingly instead of succumbing to scare tactics by the media, politicians, law enforcement, computer security vendors, and others;
  • find out the exact percentage of our schools’ families that don’t have broadband Internet access at home rather than treating the amorphous ‘digital divide’ as a reason not to assign any homework that involves use of the Internet;
  • treat seriously and own personally the task of becoming proficient with the digital tools that are transforming everything instead of nonchalantly chuckling about how little we as educators know about computers;
  • recognize the power and potential (and limitations) of online learning rather than blithely assuming that it can’t be as good as face-to-face instruction;
  • tap into and utilize the technological interest and knowledge of students instead of pretending that they have nothing to contribute;
  • better educate and train school administrators rather than continuing to turn out new leaders that know virtually nothing about creating, facilitating, and/or sustaining 21st century learning environments;
  • and so on…

What else could we add to the list?

If we were really serious about [educational technology issue], we would [?] instead of [?].

It’s almost 2011. Isn’t it time for us to get serious about educational technology?

93 Responses to “If we were really serious about educational technology”

  1. we would have year long PD for staff to encourage and give them the skills for using technology. And it wouldn’t be a choice for staff. . . lifelong learning involves understanding the powerful tech tools

    • I think this is an excellent point. Until teachers understand how to use and integrate technology, its use will be limited.

    • Agreed! We need to be shown how to use the tech to teach 21st Century Skills and content appropriately. Big businesses need to infuse money into schools, and tech manufacturers need to help provide schools with the tech students will be using in the workplace. If we can use these tools in school, we will graduate work-ready kids and a much stronger labor force.

    • Completely agree. We need more mandatory PD for faculty!

  2. …those who are reluctant technology users would be embraced by a one-on-one technology mentor from his/her department/building.

  3. We would examine EVERY aspect of school structure and classroom practice instead of half-heartedly adding 21st century/digital tools into 20th century/factory-based schools.

  4. I see the day coming when students find ways to augment textbooks with detailed checksheets, learn at their own speed, check each other out on understanding, re-learn what they missed, and come to school only to pass the tests at much younger age than we are used to.

  5. We would stop TALKING about it and start doing it.

    We would stop paying keynote speakers to tell us that we need to do it and start paying keynote speakers to show us how to do it.

    We would give concrete examples to teachers to use that are directly tied to their own teaching and not examples about what Mrs. Smith is doing in a state that has different standards, different techniques and different tests.

    We would align the tested curriculum to the technology integration because if it isnt tested, it isnt taught…

  6. We would use ePortfolios instead of paper-based ones for writing classes.

  7. How about contests for kids to record (via cell phones) & upload the most boring class lectures?

    Then, hold competitions with prizes for kids to create YouTube clips that cover the same topics in memorable ways, in a fraction of the time.

    Mark Frazier
    @openworld @peerlearning (twitter)

  8. Understanding that ‘Collaboration’ is an important skill for all learners to master; teachers will model ‘Collabor-action’ in both their school-based interactions, and in professional learning that transends the walls of their classrooms.

    Rodd Lucier

  9. Maybe a better title for this post would be “If We Were Really Serious About Educating Students…” I’m not sure that we can afford to compartmentalize Ed Tech by continuing to think about it as its own discrete subject. Doesn’t everything on this list relate to teaching students in a modern, authentic and meaningful way? I think this is a great list, btw. It seems to me that some educators feel almost proud that they “don’t do computers.” How can that serve today’s students well?
    Thanks Scott–as always, a great, thought-provoking post!

    • I completely agree. I think its time we reframe the EdTech question from “How do we integrate technology into our classrooms?’ to “Which Century’s technology are we using in our classrooms?”

  10. hahahahahaha I love this. But those boring teachers would probably snatch those cell phones real quick!

  11. We would colaborate and communicate between education establishments in the ‘real’ world as easily and readily as we do in the ‘virtual’.

  12. District and school leaders should stop focusing on budget and more on benefits of the virtual advantage. Don’t give in to the tyranny of “or” but rather adopt the genius of “and”. Be innovative, creative, and courageous.

  13. We should make a concerted effort to teach students with the tools and means they have at their disposal, instead of teaching as if they live in a bubble. As others have said here, teach them both with 21st Century tools AND methods. Technology provides a great platform for not just teaching but also for an intimate amount of collaboration between teachers and students, as well as students and other students. Showing students how to utilize these tools to properly access and use relevant data is the future of education, specially in a world where the limitations of data access are quickly disappearing and being replaced by concerns on how to best ASSESS and then ANALYZE the most important pieces of this vast amount of data.

    Twitter: @SAGrader

  14. If we were really serious about educational technology we would have dedicated sources of ed tech funding in the range of $100-$200/per student/per year. Instead, education technology budgets are often piecemeal, using one time funding year by year. This leads to a piecemeal technology plan. Districts seen as ed tech leaders often have a multi-year dedicated source of technology funding. With funding, everything else on this list gets handled. Without the funding, we’ll still be dealing with this same list ten years from now, just like we had this same basic list ten years ago.

    • Even worse than piecewise funding is that it’s always for equipment, with no budget for software or training. My description of that is like buying a Ferrari and not putting gas in it. Actually that describes a lot of “education technology”

  15. … we would utilize technology on a regular basis as a means to formatively assess what learning is happening in the classroom AND as a way of consciously and swiftly adapting instruction for the individual or group to best meet their needs.

  16. ….we would assist teachers in creating and implementing more Cooperative Work methods of learning, inquiry-based/critical thinking based (like http://www.tc2.ca) activities and available technologies at hand (whether its school-based or student-based).

    ….we would also assist teachers in understanding how much H.E.A.T. should students be generating in their learning (http://www.loticonnection.com)

    ….and we would assist teachers in understanding the TPACK concept where pedagogy and content with technology integration are interconnected. (http://www.tpck.org and http://activitytypes.wmwikis.net/)

  17. All very good points! You touched upon my basic theory of integrating tech into schools which is that you have to become tech proficient in order to do it. We keep thinking up ways to use what I call “Print Shop tools” because they are so easy. A lot of educators won’t even bother with a tool if it takes more than 5 minutes to master. If you become tech proficient then integrating comes naturally! I’m truly amazed that educators believe they can use tech without knowing tech. Does it require some work? Sure, but most things that are worth doing usually do.

  18. We would not only ensure adequate funding for schools and classrooms, but for outfitting teachers in the first place. Rather than providing teachers with 3-5 year old (or much older) desktop computers with limited software put the ‘latest and greatest’ equipment in place as soon as possible. Teachers should have nicely built laptops with a bevy of current software (much of it can be gotten for free too!) – train the teachers on how to use ALL of it – and model through PD and in-house training how they can be most efficient users of their equipment.

    Provide a fully functional, automatic update process with good tech support to keep it all up and running.

    Then do all of this with every admin and student as well – all the while remembering that the power is not in the objects or the programs but in the users and their creative abilities that are fostered through all of the tech-aware teachers.

  19. appropriate funding, so that students don’t get cut off because we’re over the monthly data cap.

    establish policy, so that the few precious lab slots aren’t booked up with “word processing.”

    integrate, rather than allowing some departments/teachers to just do their own thing, to ensure fair and reasonable distribution of resources.

    catch secondary schools up to primary/intermediate school resourcing, so that when students arrive at high school they don’t feel like they’ve just gotten out of the way-back machine into the stone age, and lose interest in their education.

    exercise the vote, and make demands of our government representatives to ensure that the education minister actually has SOME (any!) experience in education, so that reasonable, realistic, and student-wide (K-13) policies are set forth and budgeted appropriately. also, that blanket PD is carried out so that all teachers are prepared to teach according to the new (2010) curriculum, which requires integration of IT.

    and lastly, hire IT administrators who are knowledgeable in school systems, open to faculty needs, and, preferably, have an interest in education/children/schools/life outside their pod-office.

  20. Scott,
    here is my blog response to this entry. Thanks, Tim


  21. We would stop worrying about making people uncomfortable and we would demand the change we need.

    We would embrace innovation and change and the risk-takers

    We would work together in teams and challenge the status quo

  22. Let learners and teachers use their own technology instead of blocking it. In ‘new builds’ have 20 plug points in every room.

  23. Your suggestions once again limit the potential computers in learning to the low-hanging fruit of computer as information appliance.

    Perhaps you should add to the list that people should read Seymour Papert’s work.

  24. PS: I wish we could have a serious debate defining “educational technology” and explore why we continue to minimize the role of computing in the intellectual development of children.

  25. The library and computer lab should be combined into a Learning Commons both physically and virtually where teacher librarians and teacher technologists have a giant parade of great learning experiences and virtually where knowledge building centers a conversations between students, teachers, teacher librarians, and teacher technologists. The Learning Commons can be the major showcase and experimental learning center where exemplary practices then fan out into the rest of the building.

  26. If we were truly serious about educational technology, there would be no “textbook adoption” committees. Instead, there would be curriculum resource committees.

  27. prioritize technology standards at the same level we do the the three Rs

    • Which raises the question, what would you consider to be the standards? Is it using particular applications (easily dated, non-transferable skills)? Is it programming (not used by a vast majority of the professions)? Is it “safe internet use” (probably as useless as the “safe sex” or Drugs/alcohol/tobacco education)? It’s all well and good to say “standards” but it’s quite another to come up with a useable and relevant set.

  28. These will go on and on, i think they need to give education the greater consideration it needs for a change.

  29. We would be using the technology to create resources and learning environments that are accessible to all students, rather than relying on specialist teachers to adapt and revise what we have produced for our “mainstream students”. We would be assisting students to adopt inclusive ways of working when they create and collaborate both F2F and in virtual spaces.

  30. A good post which makes a lot of interesting points. Whilst I agree about using social networks I say think wider than Facebook of which I am not a great fan. They make privacy settings complicated IMHO to make money. They also respond poorly to malicious posts. As educators we should broaden students’ horizons including critiques of tech and how it is used. The big issue in developing tech for teaching is how do we win hearts & minds of fellow educators and policy makers?

    • It’s more than just privacy and the blur between the students’ personal and school life, it’s about the companies making money off of the students’ information. I do not wish my personal information used for profit without my consent, and I would not presume to require my students to make theirs available.
      To give a personal example, when I bought my house, the family living there had a 7 year old son. 10 years later I began receiving mail for him advertizing senior pictures, limos, recruitment from the military, etc. It is illegal to collect data from children under 13, but very clearly this was done and someone profited from the sale of that information. There are already reports of debt-collectors using social networks (and I have received nag calls from debt-collectors about my neighbors’ debts), don’t think that children won’t be exploited by someone looking to make (or collect) a buck.
      People who are blase’ about students’ internet use have probably also never had to deal with criminal investigations related to the district’s technology (the district that I work for has had to deal with Police and FBI investigations). we are the legal caretakers of our students, and we have responsibilities to them, and should tend to err on the side of caution.

  31. Many students already have access to computers at home. Some of them know more about the technology than their teachers. Create in the class room tech savvy students to lead and guide other students. Teachers should also be trained in updating their skills as a priority rather than on their own time. Invite parents in fields that utilize a computer often in their work to tutor and assist in the classroom by donating their time.

  32. For what it is worth, this Wikipedia post was written by students in a “special ed” English class…


  33. we would…act as facilitators as we link students with others around the world, providing them with the opportunities to collaborate on truly authentic learning tasks.

  34. Very good – I tell my students about Facebook privacy settings all the time. Many are very aware, more than friends my own age.

  35. I agree with your list and would like to add one. If we were really serious about educational technology, we would avoid stereotyping applicants by assuming those too old to be digital natives are not tech savvy. Many nontraditional education students spent decades in the business world moving from paper and pencils to mainframe computers to PCs to the internet to… Thinking critically, they collaborated with colleagues to solve problems and develop improved processes or products. They have proven themselves to be lifelong learners by enrolling in college in midlife. Many augment their perpetual inquisitiveness of youth with logic and a healthy dose of skepticism acquired through years of life experiences. They have raised their families and can now devote their time to learning and teaching. You can’t judge a book by its cover or its age.

  36. Recognise the power of Peer Coaching to support all teachers to develop a rich technology-infused pedagogy. Specifically the Microsoft Peer Coaching programme which has proved so successful across dozens of countries (including the UK)

    • Excellent Point! (Wish I’d thought to mention it) Not just Microsoft, but peer coaching/presenting in general. Someone who actually uses the technology in the field is almost always a better instructor than anyone “trained to train the product” since they actually know what works and doesn’t. My district’s technology coach turned so white that I thought she was going to pass out when I started rattling off all of the problems to the state auditor, but I pointed out that only the people who actually use it know what does and doesn’t work (and figure out what the work-arounds are)

  37. This list misses the entire point. Education is endemic of larger society problems like poverty. Put a device in every kids hands, who is going to pay for it? This idea that teachers are the barrier is a joke, what about kids and their lack of interest in pursuing anything (in or out of school). Don’t give me this garbage as if it is disconnected from larger socio-economic issues.

    • Spot on! A notebook in every hand will bankrupt a district and town, and not meet the goal of education.

      • It’s all about priorities. I used to think that the cost was ridiculous, until I looked at our district’s budget for athletics, and the unrecouped costs for that would have easily paid for new 1-to-1 laptops every single year, so a 4 or 5 year cycle would be trivial compared to what is spent on Athletics.
        That having been said, I still think that there are far better uses for the same amount of money than 1-to-1. Our science department spent about $4,000 on digital microscopes and high-speed cameras, and it’s amazing what you can do with those. A few thousand more for probes and we’ll have a nice interactive chemistry lab as well, and that’s for the cost of about 10 laptops!

  38. I did not find anything in the list that indicated teachers are the barrier. I also do not believe that kids lack interest in pursuing anything (in or out of school). Student apathy is not a recent development. Many of my classmates in the 60s and 70s were apathetic. I believe their apathy was driven by their early lack of success in school – learned helplessness. If you don’t believe an enthusiastic teacher, who encourages students while challenging them, can make a difference, you should talk to some of Jaime Escalante’s former students from Garfield High School. I cannot solve society’s socio-economic issues. But, one student at a time, I can positively impact young people’s lives. I never expect my students to be more excited about learning than I am.

  39. …School administrators would form support groups where they would share their technology proficiency and tips instead of struggling with new tasks in isolation.

  40. -Make the use of technology not optional for admins or teachers.

    -Add technology dimensions to teachers evaluations

    -Quantify the amount of technology in your curriculum and implement a strategy to increase that metric by X% in Xdays/years

    -Stop using email as a collaboration tool

    -Implement business intelligence practices to create educational intelligence

  41. Thanks for this post, I have linked to it from a page on my blog.

    I agree most with the several points that point towards educators pushing their personal limitations with technology rather than just admitting they are rubbish at technology and giving up.

    Great blog here, you have yourself another follower.


  42. I think I would add enabling students to manage their group projects online to the list.
    A great FREE site for this is Enterthegroup.com

  43. Excellent post.
    There needs to be something in there about using and encouraging portable digital devices in teh classroom. They are becoming ubiquitous, and their uptake among lower socio-economic groups is no less than among higher, so it is a positive equity option.

  44. My name is Ali and I am Dr. Strange’s EDM310 class. This is an excellent post. The last statement you made is so true. It is almost 2011 and some classrooms are not using technology at all. These are all great ways to start using technology in the classroom. I enjoyed reading them and will one day use these tips in my own classroom. Being in EDM has shown me that incorporating technology in the classroom is they way to go. I cannot wait to read more of these post.

  45. Maybe we could utilize their mobile technologies (Laptops, smart phones, iPads etc) via platforms like Top Hat Monocle – http://www.tophatmonocle.com .

    • Ben, we should not focus on the device, but on mobility of access. Way too many dollars are spent on the box, which then means many more dollars are spent on supporting the box. Content and access is what it is all about. A book has content, and mobility is included in the price!

  46. I am a teacher who would love to teach with technology but the technology at the school is old or it is difficult to use. We decided to go into a competition to get some funds to buy technology. We are in the semi finals and are in desperate need of votes. Anyone with an email can help us out by voting at
    Your support would be greatly appreciated. An educator in need of proper technology for our kids.

  47. I’ve got another one…

    We’d teach students how to properly maintain and manage their computing devices rather than removing user privileges and locking down the ability to change any settings.

    • Once again Scott, you prove how out of touch you are with the real world. The fact that “Illegal File Sharing using School Property” (gee, who’s liable when it’s tracked back to a school computer and possibly network?) and “Manufacture and Distribution of Child Pornography” (children under 18 have been convicted for sending pictures of themselves) do not immediately spring to your mind as “Oh, that’s why!” proves that you are used to dealing with adults who are actually responsible for their actions, rather than children, who are legally not (except when they are, applied in a capricious way by courts everywhere)

      Oh, and I should throw in a snarky comment about how you must not like Apple products then 🙂

  48. I am confused by this last comment and the prior comment by B. Bradley about the financial ‘waste’ putting devices in the hands of students (rather spend money on high-priced microscopes?? Do ALL kids use those? Do kids have any control? Will ALL kids use those in their future?). It sounds as though you are saying students are too irresponsible and therefore we must not allow them access. Really? Do you think kids do not already have and use these devices? Shouldn’t we be having students use them in ways that make sense and also teach them how to be responsible? We are supposing to be educating, not just dispensing our knowledge. I do agree, though, that we must prioritize costs. But how can technology in the hands of students NOT be a priority??

    • @Sue in answer, yes, you are confused.

      Re: Cost
      Our building has about 1400 students. Direct cost for purchasing 1-1 laptops would be about a $1,000,000 ($700 per pupil = $980,000), plus maintenance, support staff, and repair costs. One-Twentieth of that cost would allow us to fully outfit our science labs with modern equipment that could be used for at least the next decade (unlike laptops). For comparison our annual Science budget has been about $12,000 [yes, that’s for all of the sciences], and we require 4 years of science to graduate, so yes, all of the students take some lab science.

      Re: Legal Liability
      Yes, teenagers are irresponsible, and will do stupid things. That is a fact. The laws regarding schools and technology are ridiculous. We are required by law to filter internet content. Teenagers have been charged as sex offenders because their girlfriend/boyfriend has sent naked pictures! This is not a hypothetical case, one of my former students (who was over 18 at the time) has a criminal record due to this. We are required to record all internet use (and have had our systems pulled for FBI and police investigations), and being a public institution material is also required to be accessible for FOIA requests. People who do not deal with secondary educational technology have no idea how insane the current system is.

  49. Oh, and I think that you mis-read. $4000 bought a Lab of microscopes, not one, so they are actually quite reasonable.

  50. Great post and on mark! Whether we choose to embrace technology in our classrooms or not, it is the future and how our society will be educated. It is the primary means of communication and collaboration, and if we don’t accept and utilize technology, then we can not say we have truly prepared students for the real world.

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