The unholy trinities of classroom technology usage

iPadFear.pngThe unholy trinity of student classroom technology usage

  1. Taking notes / word processing  (look, we’re using computers!)
  2. Looking up stuff  (Google and Wikipedia reign supreme)
  3. Making PowerPoints  (and they’re not even good ones)

Honorable mention: Completing Google Docs electronic worksheets  (just type in the empty spaces…)

The unholy trinity of teacher classroom technology usage

  1. Interactive whiteboards  (can you say ‘really expensive chalkboards?’)
  2. Clickers  (digital multiple choice! woo hoo!)
  3. Pre-selected YouTube videos for students  (passive viewing of filmstrips, VHS tapes, laserdiscs, or DVDs is s-o-o-o yesteryear)

Honorable mention: Blackboard or Moodle  (let’s devise really complex systems for transmitting really basic information!)

Is this the vast majority of what we see in P-12 and postsecondary classrooms? Yep. Can we do better (a lot better) than just this? Yep.

Image credit: 296/366, Ashley Lowry

33 Responses to “The unholy trinities of classroom technology usage”

  1. Every student and teacher needs to start somewhere – taking useful notes and using Google well and creating a decent PowerPoint/Keynote are all valuable skills. I’m sure you’ve said much about this previously, but it would have been helpful to give a few examples of what is better than these.

  2. Let us all fill the comment boxes with higher level uses for technologies in the classroom:

    LMS: Online asynchronous discussion to spark face to face in class debate.

    Google Docs: Collaborative digital projects where students can contribute in person and at respective places of study.

    YouTube: Flip the video, watch at home and bring in 2 facts and two questions for discussion. Better yet, post them to a shared doc and discuss throughout the night for HW.

    Note taking: give students notes and allow them to use Google Docs to put own comments in the margins (if you lecture at all)

    Making PowerPoints: (or Prezi for that matter.) How about making a digital textbook with your students containing resources that matter to your teaching/students/courses. Then publish it!

    It’s a start…

    • I agree. Students have to get their fingers on screens and/or keyboards. Of course the goal is to help them create, analyze, apply and evaluate. And they can using tools in simple ways. And they can learn more complex and sophisticated tools too.

    • HERE IS A GOOD USE OF TECHNOLOGY IN THE CLASSROOM.
      STACK LAPTOPS TO USE AS STAIRS TO REACH HIGH UP ON THE INTERACTIVE WHITE BOARD TO REACH BUTTONS TO FIX IT WHEN IT CONSTANTLY MALFUNCTIONS.
      USE IPHONES AND IPADS AS PROJECTILES TO ENHANCE SELF ESTEEM, EVERYBODY THROWS, EVERYBODY WINS.
      USE TV’S TO WATCH OLD SOAP OPERAS DURING RECESS ON NETFLICKS.
      USE IPHONES TO READ TEACHERS TWITTER AND FACEBOOK POSTS.
      USE GOOGLE TO SEARCH FOR TEACHER BLOGS AND SELFIES FOR A LAUGH.
      USE VIDEO GAMES TO PASS TIME BEFORE YOU GO TO YOUR TUTOR AFTER SCHOOL.
      USE LAPTOPS TO HIDE PENCILS AND PAPERS FROM ILLITERATE FASCILITATORS.
      CREATE YOUR OWN SELF INDULGENT PROGRESSIVE GIBBERISH PSYCHOBABBLE TEXTBOOK AND PUBLISH IT BECAUSE YOU ARE THAT GOOD.
      SHARE YOUR CHATROOM COMMENTS FROM TRANSHUMANIST BLOG.
      PRINT OUT PICTURES OF HEROS FOR CONSTRUCTIVIST ACTIVITY OF” CULT OF PERSONALITY IS AWESOME” ASSIGNMENT OF BARBARA MARX HUBBARD, JEAN PIAGET AND SATAN, ” NOT SUCHA BAD GUY”…
      DRAW RAINBOWS ON IDRAW TO DECORATE THE CLASSROOM
      DEEPLY ENGAGE IN TEXT ONLY AVAILABLE ON ERIC OR IDOCS.GOV
      CELEBRATE YOUR EXCELLANCE BY MAKING A VIDEO ALL DANCING TO “GANG NAM STYLE” POST ON YOU TUBE

  3. This post made me laugh – so spot on.

  4. Though I would also add that I don’t think this is a bad start. Rather than talking about tech integration as if it were binary (either you are doing it well or you aren’t doing it well) I find it more helpful to think of it as a continuum. Everyone should get started, and then have a direction to head.

  5. No disagreement with anything posted here so far!

    Hans and Nancy, I put ‘just this’ at the end to try and imply that these are common (and, often, even important) uses of technology but that we need to go much further. Too often these become the ceiling, not the floor. That’s particularly troublesome given that most of these involve passive, fairly mindless consumption by students rather than active, mindful usage. So many of these may be necessary but are insufficient to pat ourselves on the back and say ‘we’re doing technology.’

    Thanks, Ryan, for starting to blow out what bigger, better uses might be. Hopefully others will contribute their ideas too!

    Nancy, for me, anything that involves tech-infused active learning, deeper thinking, and greater student agency probably meets my criteria for ‘better than the lists above.’ Those experiences typically turn out to be project- / problem- / challenge- / inquiry-based learning experiences…

  6. True. Thought I might add the computer lab to the list. Amazing how prevalent these still are, particularly in K-6. And, it’s not so much the lab as it is the software/websites being used. Why do they even call it a lab?

  7. The common thread to your list in my view is the use of technology to do what we’ve always done instead of inventing new ways of doing school. Technology enabling 20th century teaching and learning.

  8. Someone that’s not familiar with the things that you have on the list might think that Moodle and Power Point are similar. You are, of course, correct that the list includes tools that are commonly mis-used or used for things they are not designed to do.

    But suggesting that Moodle can’t be used to create tech-infused active learning, deeper thinking, and greater student agency is just plain wrong. Moodle is a very complex tool which can be used to do to simple teaching and learning activities or very large complex teaching and learning activities. Moodle is very dependent on the skill and expertise of the teacher, which is why it is so misunderstood by so many, but also why it is so powerful in the hands of teachers who know how to use it. Presuming that every teaching tool needs to be such that it requires no practice or coaching to use effectively gets us to Youtube and Power Point.

  9. Scott,
    Thanks for pointing out some of the ways staff and students substitute tech tools for teaching and learning without being truly transformative. Ryan was spot on regarding SAMR.
    For some students, taking notes on the computer has improved their learning (they can now read their notes!), and for some teachers, gathering formative data on students using clickers or sites like Socrative have helped improve instruction and student learning.
    I too would like to see more focus on what teachers and students SHOULD do, rather than what they SHOULDN”T!

    Staff are nervous about moving to an inquiry-/problem-/project-/challenge-based curriculum when they are still held accountable for high test scores on AP exams and other standardized tests. They can’t afford the implementation dip, so wade in cautiously.

    I also agree w/ Dan that every tool you mentioned has potential to be used in innovative ways. Even this video made with PowerPoint. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oCiZ6jZz0HA

    Hopefully our students are the ones creating the videos that demonstrate learning.

  10. This month, we are graduating 3.4 million high school students from controlled, restrictive school environments into an unfiltered and unfettered world where they will process and assimilate multiple, continuous streams of information flowing at them 24/7 (reality whether we like it or not). We know their future depends on knowing how to take this massive information flow and learn, unlearn, relearn, discover, filter, evaluate, reshape, innovate and create, etc. And yet how many students will graduate this month possessing even some of these essential skills?
    It’s clear the world is changing rapidly and the pace of change is accelerating. Our schools simply cannot continue to take baby steps with Powerpoint slides and clickers (even when used innovatively) and pretend they are preparing our children to succeed in a world today that functions in a vastly different, almost unrecognizable manner from our schools. As my son says, that’s cray, cray.
    Administrative and teacher leaders, propel this train forward– make the shift necessary to become a community of learners where students and teachers embrace risk and learn to solve problems together.

  11. Speaking for myself in an IT training centre I can’t GET most of my 16-17 year old learners to do 1 at all, and can’t STOP them doing 2 and 3…

    “Why don’t you try doing that as an animation for that theory stuff you’ve got to put together for your portfolio” I ask, demonstrating a few tools.

    “Na, Powerpoint’s quicker and easier,” I get back.

    In my experience, our so -called ‘digital natives’ do NOT find creating with these new tools magically easier or more engaging and they don’t see why the need to learn new tools as well as new content.

    Left to their own devices they chose the easy, familiar options the same as teachers do – the only difference is that they then complain they’re bored!

    You don’t just have to persuade teachers to use them, you have to persuade teachers that they need in turn to persuade kids to… And you need time for them to get familiar enough with them that it feels as easy and familiar as the Powerpoints they’ve been making since they were six.

    EdTech is talked about as if it’s some “If you build it they will come” solution and it just isn’t.

  12. “Honorable mention: Blackboard or Moodle (let’s devise really complex systems for transmitting really basic information!)”

    I don’t think that’s fair. I can’t speak for Blackboard, but Moodle is more than a “really complex system for transmitting really basic information”.

    If all Moodle did was serve as a central place to put resources for a course, I think there’s value in that. What’s wrong with putting things in an organized place so students can find what they need? But Moodle is also…
    – a way for students to hand in their work, and an automatic backup of what they hand in
    – my gradebook, visible to students so they always know where they stand, and a way to provide feedback to students
    – a shared calendar
    – a collaboration platform with wikis, shared files, and forums

    And “really complex”? We have our entire high school using Moodle, staff and students, and there hasn’t really been a need to do much training. For a teacher or student, it’s pretty intuitive. Even administering the server isn’t “really complex”.

    There are things I wish Moodle would do better (I wish Wikis were more like Google docs with multiple editors at once, for example)… but Moodle does a pretty good job of providing a digital learning environment.

  13. Thanks for the pushback, Trev. A couple of quick thoughts…

    1. Nothing wrong with Moodle in and of itself! I love that it’s open source, comprehensive, and fairly easy to learn. But how we use it often is pretty low-level: let’s push out stuff to kids. It’s basically used in many (most?) classrooms to reinforce the ‘transmission of low-level content’ model of education. It’s not the tool, it’s the predominant usage with which I have concerns. Could it be used for better, deeper learning work? Absolutely! Is it usually? Nope.

    2. I think there’s a lot of complexity in both Moodle and Blackboard. They try to be fairly user-accessible and reduce the learning curve for users but there are many configuration options, click paths, and other things necessary to get operational. All to (again) push out low-level content (usually).

    That’s my thinking for why I included LMSes (did I spell that right?) in this post…

    • I hear what you’re saying Scott, but I still have a “yes but”.

      “It’s basically used in many (most?) classrooms to reinforce the ‘transmission of low-level content’ model of education.”

      That’s a starting point, it’s not necessarily an end point. That’s where I started from my first time using Moodle. I’ve gone beyond that now, but I started with posting PDF files and PowerPoints.

      Once a teacher has a Moodle course set up and the students all have accounts, it doesn’t require much extra work to use it for something more substantial. I’ve had a couple of occasions where this has happened this year – when someone has poked their head into my room with “I heard you were using forums for students to post reflections on class, how can I set that up?” or “can I poll our high school students using Moodle to get some data for my probability unit?”. I’m doing a lot with wikis right now and it’s going very well (I have students storyboarding and producing videos with 100+km of physical space between them, very cool)… so I wouldn’t be surprised to have a colleague ask “what’s this wiki thing the students were talking about, and how do I do that?”.

      In my school environment, teachers are using Moodle in different ways and at different levels. All of my colleagues have chosen to use it of their own accord, and as they become more familiar with it I suspect some of them will explore using it in richer ways. Probably not all, or all at once, but that’s okay. Rome wasn’t built in a day, as the saying goes.

      Moodle does not necessarily equal good teaching… as with any tool, it’s all in how one uses it. But honestly I think Moodle is helping us to do some very beneficial things.

      • So glad you’re getting good use out of Moodle!

        I agree that we have to start somewhere. I wish I saw more folks progressing over time into higher-level activities like you rather than staying stuck, for some reason, in more entry-level uses.

  14. Scott,
    I think you’re continuing to mislead regarding Moodle. If the tool is used only to push out to students, that is clearly not Moodle’s fault. I wasn’t pushing out to students, or their tutors at the U of Mn, when I used Moodle in my classroom three years ago – I wrote about that use here, on your blog, remember? http://dangerouslyirrelevant.org/2010/09/writing-the-elephant-in-the-living-room.html

    Moodle, by design, is not primarily a push out tool. Below I’ve listed the resources and activities available on our, Augsburg’s, current Moodle installation. The Resources are mostly push out tools; Activities require some kind of student action. Please notice that the list of activities is longer than the list of resources, and that doesn’t include all of the variations of each of the activities and the variations in teacher and further student response.

    There are a dozen, at least, different ways that a forum or assignment each can be structured to guide student interaction, creativity and response. I’m currently intrigued by the possibilities of voice comments by either teacher or students on submitted work. Embedding VoiceThreads into assignments is also very popular with our faculty. Embedding a VoiceThread into a Moodle assignment makes all of the extensive possibilities of VoiceThread available within the Moodle environment and ties to the grade book.

    Now, does Moodle continue to be used by some teachers as merely a classroom bulletin board and maybe a drop box? Yep! My job is a long way from being done, but that’s not Moodle’s fault.

    Here’s the list that pops up when a teacher selects ‘Add and activity or resource.’

    Activities

    Assignment
    Attendance
    Chat
    Choice
    Database
    External Tool
    Forum
    Glossary
    Lesson
    Questionnaire
    Quiz
    Scheduler
    SCORM package
    Slideshow
    Survey
    Wiki
    Workshop

    Resources

    Book
    File
    Folder
    IMS content package
    Label
    Page
    URL

    • Hey, Dan, thanks for the comment! I’ve got no major beefs with Moodle. It’s got fairly robust functionality and can be used for all sorts of things. My concern is with how most educators use Moodle. So I don’t think my concerns and statements are ‘misleading.’ Just rooted in a concern for higher-level usage.

      • A concern with how Moodle is used is very different than a concern about Moodle. The former is a generalization about collective practice; the latter is about a specific software application. My issue is with your failure to differentiate the generalization about collective practice with the specific software.

        The reasons that collective practice is difficult to change are many. One of the reasons is the failure of leaders to make the necessary distinctions between practice and specific devices. Another prominent example of this failure is the conflation of Assessment of learning with standardized tests. One is a collective practice; the other is a specific device.

        Conflating how Moodle is used with the tool itself does none of us any good. Learning how to use Moodle effectively is worthwhile; understanding why it is sometimes not used effectively may or may not be useful in learning how to use it effectively. In my experience, the reasons for ineffective use of Moodle are varied, but ineffective use is almost always accompanied by a lack of understanding by leadership in how to use it effectively. Moodle is a type of System (that’s what the ‘S’ in LMS represents) and systems don’t work when leadership doesn’t understand the system. Schools are also a system; they’re not a collection of individual classrooms. Teaching in a system is also not the same as an individual teacher.

        That kind of distinction, I think, can be applied to lots of issue related to ‘technology’ and ‘education.’

        • I’m not sure what to say here, Dan. My post is titled ‘usage’ and both of my category headings are titled ‘usage.’ Thanks for the additional thoughts. As usual, you’re dead on…

  15. When I read this, I agreed with (and could relate to) everything listed… but I also initially questioned the inclusion of Moodle. But, Scott has clarified his point to my satisfaction. And the initial post certainly provoked a great follow up conversation ;) For 2+ years I have struggled to get our teachers to move beyond the most basic uses of technology (including Moodle). The natural tendency (not just at our school) seems to be to try to keep things as much like they already are as possible, and find a way to incorporate technology within that framework. Obviously, that approach is not going to yield the results we say we are looking for. Inevitably in these kinds of conversations, teachers (which I am one) will point to a lack of time or training. I don’t buy it (based on firsthand experience/observation). If you really want it, you’ll make it happen. There is a difference between working hard and working smart. If you’re running a restaurant that’s failing because people don’t like the food, it won’t matter how much time you spend on interior decorating and designing a fancier looking menu.

    • Thanks, Robert, for giving me the benefit of the doubt long enough to sift through the comments! :)

      Replicative uses are a necessary step for most folks on the tech integration journey. We just need more folks to move beyond that step to different, better uses. And a lot of educators are really struggling making that move…

      Thanks, everyone, for the great discussion!

  16. The funny thing about this post is that there is nothing technologically aesthetic about it. “Physician heal yourself”

  17. First, the author damns all current technology commonly being used in education, and without suggesting alternatives, concludes, “We can do better.”

    Second, from our perspective, technology can appear static and deliberate, otherwise we would not be able to judge it’s success or failure as a supplier of tools for learning. But technology moves deliberately, quickly, and is difficult to anticipate. It would be the same as if the author, just before the advent of the automobile, bemoaned the limitations of horse driven transportation an concluded, “We can do better.”

    Third, there is no guarantee that providing the best tools will always provide better outcomes; performance will remain the responsibility of the individual. Just as there is no magic software that will make us each smarter, PowerPoint cannot be blamed for mediocrity, that remains within our personal responsibility.

    So, I would agree with the author that our current state of educational technology may be inadequate, but it’s not forever. The future is difficult to foresee, but if past performance is predictive of the future, educational technology will improve; it will do better.

    The larger issue, for educators, is whether taking personal responsibility for student performance has been willingly replaced technology? With companies able to place their systems with each student, who stops them from defining what is successful education?

    If “We can do better”, the time is now to demonstrate how that will materialize.

  18. Hi Scott,

    I know this post is a few months old, but you hit a key point that I hope is shared by others–Technology is a tool that can be used for learning, and the design in the task will predict student performance.

    Here’s a post I wrote which expands on this idea.

    As always, thanks for helping us develop a stronger understanding of how technology can help learning (and how it can not).

    Kind regards,
    Tracy

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