The Key to Popularizing Technology in Education

by Kelly Walsh on June 27, 2010

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Meeting these requirements can position any education technology implementation effort for success.

I’m delighted to post this guest post, contributed by Anna Miller, who writes on the topic of online degrees . Many readers of this column appreciate the challenges that educational institutions face in their efforts to leverage the many technological tools available to today’s educators. In this article, Anna highlights some of the key issues that can limit, or facilitate, adoption of these technologies.

While you can’t doubt the fact that technology brings many benefits to the field of education, it’s not something that everybody has embraced with open arms. The reasons why people are hesitant to accept and adopt technology are varied. And even though our world revolves around technological innovations like the Internet, we are yet to see parallel leaps and bounds in the use of technology in classrooms all around the world.

4 Factors for Education Technology SuccessOne of the biggest reasons for this anomaly is cost – unless schools are able to justify the expense spent on the infrastructure, they’re not likely to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on technology. Also, if educational institutions are not sure about making full use of the technology, they’re not going to be in favor of it. So the keys to popularizing technology in education, especially at the school level, are:

  • Cost-effectiveness: Technology needn’t be dirt cheap for it to be welcomed by school boards and teachers; all it needs to do is offer a good return on investment. If schools feel that they stand to gain by spending money on technology and that it will benefit their students immensely, they don’t hesitate to try it out.
  • Ease of use: It may be technology, but if it is not simple enough to use even by those who are not tech savvy, it’s of no use in any school. If it is to be adopted and used comprehensively and usefully, technology must be simple and easily understood by all those who use it, from the staff to the students.
  • Acceptability: Many teachers shun technology because they want to avoid looking like they don’t know how to use it properly. In order to address this issue, schools and technology providers must ensure that teachers accept technology first before it is introduced into the school. And to make this happen, they must be made comfortable using it through training sessions and other similar methods. Only when the technology is accepted will it prove to be valuable in the long term.
  • Safety and reliability: And finally, as with any good thing, technology is a double-edged sword that can cut deeply and leave scars if it is not used wisely. When misused, it has the potential to cause personal harm to both those who abuse it and innocent bystanders. So unless schools are assured that the technology is harmless and that safeguards can be installed to protect students from abusing it, they are not going to be too eager to adopt it.
     

With newer forms of delivery being discovered by the day, it has become easier to bring technology to the classroom and make it a valuable educative tool. But no matter how creative education technology becomes, it will only become popular if the above aspects are addressed.

This guest post is contributed by Anna Miller, who writes on the topic of online degrees . We welcome comments, questions, and feedback – please comment below. Anna can also be reached directly at: anna.miller009@gmail.com.

Related Posts (if the above topic is of interest, you might want to check these out):
Let’s stop misspending education technology dollars

5 Reasons Why Educators Need To Embrace Internet Technologies
Great Education Technology Story: CPS Student Response System helps to improve FCAT scores
30 Posts About Free Education Technology Tools & Resources

About 

Kelly Walsh is Chief Information Officer and a faculty member at The College of Westchester in White Plains, NY and is the founder and author of EmergingEdTech.com. As an education technology advocate, he frequently delivers presentations on a variety of related topics at schools and conferences across the U.S. Walsh is also an author, and online educator, periodically running Flipped Class Workshops online. His latest eBook, the Flipped Classroom Workshop-in-a-Book was published in September, 2013 and is available here. In his spare time Walsh also writes, records, and performs original (and cover) songs (look for "K. Walsh" on iTunes or Amazon.com or check out his original song videos on here on YouTube ).

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

K. Walsh June 30, 2010 at 7:33 am

Dallas –

Thanks for much for this thorough reply. It’s a shame that we’re still struggling to prove how well planned and knowledgeably used technology can bring benefits to the classroom. Hopefully the continued expansion of focus on the topic in the recent years will help bring some clarity.

Crudbasher June 28, 2010 at 9:41 am

Thank you very much for this enlightening guest post! Could there perhaps be another one added to your list of four? I would call it Suitability. Just adding technology to a classroom won’t improve anything unless it is used in the correct way. Technology can make the classroom different, but not necessarily better right? Sometimes a regular whiteboard can be better than a Powerpoint presentation. If the role of the technology isn’t thought out ahead of time, then it can become a detriment to instruction. Just a thought. :)

Dallas McPheeters June 28, 2010 at 9:24 am

Anna’s arguments are well-taken. She is correct that there is more that lies below the surface to the technology integration challenge, as evidenced by the British experience with technology integration in schools (which preceded our own).

What stakeholders want to know assuredly is that the measures we take make a qualitative “difference” and do so “better” than previous measures. In other words, if we add a new ingredient to the education stew (i.e. Technology), will it “improve” outcomes and/or streamline them? Bottom line, do we get “more” for our money?

In Britain’s case, after implementing broad and costly measures to add costly technology hardware and infrastructure to the education system, and after some years of research, the question remained whether learning outcomes had actually “improved.”

My published research (McPheeters, 2009) on this matter is well documented. An excerpt is reprinted below with citations following:

Across the pond, the current debate in the U.K. concerns the demand for evidence that computer aided instruction (CAI) has any educational benefits at all. “CAI does not appear to have had educational benefits that translated into higher test scores” (Angrist, 2002). Ouch! Teachers everywhere can empathize with this quote from a recent study centering on the effectiveness of classroom computers and pupil learning. Test, test, and test some more so we can prove that students are regurgitating what teachers are teaching. And because schools have included technology in the classroom experience (and because the inclusion of technology comes with a high price), taxpayers demand proof that the value is worth the investment. Of course, in Angrist’s study, the teaching of computer skills is not questioned. The doubt raised focuses on the use of “computers to teach things” (Ibid). Remember, these arguments come from the immigrant schools of thought, regardless of whether fascist or phobic. Among the technophobe immigrants is the criticism that, like Sesame Street, computers “give you the sensation that merely by watching a screen, you can acquire information without work and discipline” (Ibid). To these technophobes, the resources consumed by schools for technological enhancements is a waste of funds that should have been used to hire trained teachers which “would have prevented a decline in achievement” (Ibid). Fortunately, Angrist is objective enough to conclude the possibility that the disruptions education is experiencing may be due to the transition itself and the measurable benefits of computers in teaching may simply take time to develop.

Based on this last sentence, it behooves educators to provide stakeholders with the data they need to assure them they are either:

1) Getting better results for their technology investment, or at least…
2) Trending in the right direction (and there is plenty of research to demonstrate this aspect of correctly implemented tech).

The problem is that educators have shot themselves in their own feet by jumping on every snake-oil bandwagon that has touted their cool new software, platform, subscription service, etc. Money has not been well spent as outcomes did not rise in light of the miracle prescriptions. And where quality tech “has” been purchased, as Anna notes, adequate training for its implementation and integration has not followed as yet.

What is needed is a “seamless” technology integration training for professional development.

REFERENCES
Angrist, J., & Lavy, V. (2002). New evidence on classroom computers and pupil learning. The Economic Journal, 112(482), 735-765.

McPheeters, D. (2009). Cyborg Learning Theory: Technology in Education and the Blurring of Boundaries. In T. Bastiaens et al. (Eds.), Proceedings of World Conference on E-Learning in Corporate, Healthcare, and Higher Education 2009 (pp. 2937-2942). Chesapeake, VA: AACE.

Additional Resources:
http://greenbananablog.org/2010/01/tomorrows-web-is-trending-social-media-rich-ubiquitous-and-computer-free/

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