In many cases, there seems to be a tendency to water down expectations when it comes to integrating technology. During a recent presentation on digital pedagogy for deeper learning I asked attendees to discuss then share how they were effectively integrating technology in their classroom, school, or district. There was an emphasis on describing in detail what effective use of technology meant to them. As the results poured in there were a few consistent responses that stood out. Most attendees flat out stated that they or their schools/districts were not effectively integrating technology. Others confessed that they weren’t sure what effective use constituted. Many of the remaining responses centered on just a listing of tools that were being used as a measure of effectiveness.
The question about effective use provides a great opportunity for all of us to critically reflect upon the current role technology plays in education. There is a great deal of potential in the numerous tools now available to support or enhance learning, but we must be mindful of how they are being used. Take Kahoot for example. This tool is used in so many classrooms across the world to get students more engaged and add a level of fun and excitement to the learning process. However, most of the time the questions that students are asked to answer in a Kahoot are focused on the lowest cognitive domains and mostly multiple choice. I have nothing against Kahoot and think it is a great tool that has a great deal of promise. My issue is how this tool, and many others, are utilized in the classroom.
The burden of responsibility here lies with both teachers and administrators. In many cases the engagement factor is emphasized over learning outcomes and actual evidence of improvement aligned to standards. I get that this is not the end all be all, but nevertheless it is important. It goes without saying that effective technology integration should inform instruction and provide feedback as to the level of conceptual mastery students demonstrate. Then there is the unfortunate practice of putting the cart before the horse where acquiring technology and getting it into classrooms takes precedence over improving instructional design. In either case, for technology to ever live up to the lofty, and at times baseless, expectations that have been established we must take a more critical look at pedagogy.
For many educators SAMR
is the preferred model often associated with technology integration. It’s a catchy model and does have some value mostly in the form of what we shouldn’t be doing (substitution). Take a close look at the tech-centric language used in each category and ask yourself what does the SAMR model really tell you about the level of student learning? This is why I love the Rigor Relevance Framework
as a means to ensure that technology is integrated effectively. It provides a common language, constitutes the lens through which to examine all aspects of a learning culture (curriculum, instruction, assessment), and helps to create a culture around a common vision.
Rigor Relevance Framework
Technology should be integrated in a way that increases engagement through relevance. As students are utilizing technology are they just applying it in one discipline? I am not saying this is a bad thing, but we must eventually move beyond this typical comfort zone when it comes to tool use. When integrating technology does the task allow students:
● to make connections across various disciplines and content areas?
● to solve real-world predictable problems?
● to solve real-world unpredictable problems?
The other aspect of this framework is the most important. Are students working, thinking, or both? Successful technology integration is totally dependent on the level of questioning that is asked of our students. This is why I always say that pedagogy trumps technology. Think about the formative and summative assessments you either use or see in your respective role. Are students demonstrating high levels of cognitive thought? How do you know whether students have learned or not when integrating technology? What does the feedback loop look like? These are extremely important questions to ask as a teacher or administrator to determine the level of effectiveness. Check out this example
to see how all the pieces (rigor
, relevance, tech, assessment) come together to create a powerful learning experience).
The overall goal when integrating technology should be to provide opportunities for students to work and think. Another key strategy for successful integration is to use technology when appropriate. Technology will not improve every lesson or project, thus a focus on pedagogy first, technology second if appropriate will help ensure success. Many aspects of the Rigor Relevance Framework can be used to guide you in developing better questions as part of good pedagogy. The most important aspects of pedagogy are assessment and feedback. If technology (and innovation in general) is going to have a positive impact on learning, let’s ensure these areas are improved first. Then going forward always lend a critical eye to how technology is being used to address standards and inform instruction.
Eric Sheninger will speak at the 2017 WISE Summit. Join him here.