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« Put the Personal in Your PLN - Ed Leadership column, May 2013 | Main | BFTP: The Disillusionment Curve »
Sunday
May052013

Connecting problems and technology

"Given this year's learning in the areas of technology integration, what might be one or two concrete goals that you will set for yourself heading into next year?" - end of year assignment for an administrative technology leadership class

As assignments go, the one above isn't too bad. But (doing some Monday morning quarterbacking) could it be improved? What if read:

Select one or two major problems or challenges you expect to face next year and apply technology uses to help solve or meet them.

I know, I know, for many solving a problem or meeting an educational need with technology is implied in the first assignment. But for too many educators, technology application is still about starting with a solution and running about looking for problems to solve. 

In rather vague ways, when most educators think about the why's of integrating technology into education we consider motivation, engagement, technology skill practice, reading and math remediation, higher-level thinking, improved communication, collaborative learning global citizenship, problem-solving, yada, yada, yada. All lovely and important aspirations for the productive use of these fun devices, large and small, that beep, buzz and take batteries.

But we have to do a better job of getting down in the weeds, tackling real and specific problems with technology that are rooted in the day-to-day educational problems that can't very well be solved by traditional practices...

  • How do I help students build the level of concern for the quality of their writing? 
  • How can I help my current ESL students master double-digit multiplication?
  • What might make my unit on the Civil War/the water cycle/nutrition more meaningful?
  • How can I better connect with my students' parents?
  • How do I make my staff meetings more productive?
  • How do I provide non-fiction, high-interest reading materials for elementary students helping them meet the new ELA standards?

My long standing advice to teachers has always been to begin integrating technology into one's worst units -  the ones neither you nor your students much like. I would extend this to all educators and suggest we all start looking for technology solutions to our most difficult problems - those which seem intractable.

Most educator will need exposure to the basic functionality and possibilities of new technologies. But once exposed, the direction should be toward problems, not generic or idealistic technology use. 

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Reader Comments (2)

Hi Doug,

Thanks for the great suggestion re: piloting tech integration. We may as well take our absolute worst lessons/units and work with those. Who wouldn't want to experiment with fixing a problem which seems intractable? I might even do a quick survey at my school to find out which units or teaching strategies are in greatest need of repair. Then I can fiddle with creating a fix over the summer. Fun challenge!

Katie

May 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKatie Quimby

Thanks, Katie. I've always gone for the pragmatic approach! Good luck with your summer project.

Doug

May 8, 2013 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

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