Models for selecting and using technology: 1. The challenge
Over a series of posts, I want to examine issues around the selection and use of technologies for teaching and learning. The aim is to provide some frameworks or models for decision-making that are both soundly based on theory and research and are also pragmatic within the context of education.
I want to stress here that the selection and use of technologies for teaching and learning is driven as much by context and values and beliefs as by hard scientific evidence or rigorous theory. So there will not be one ‘best’ framework or model. On the other hand, without some guiding principles, and given the fast escalating range of technologies, educators are open to technological determinism or the total rejection of technology for teaching without some models to guide the selection and use of media.
The other general point I want to make is that this will not be an easy exercise (and some indeed may question whether it is worth the effort). There are deep philosophical, technical and pragmatic challenges in trying to provide a model or set of models flexible but practical enough to handle the huge range of factors involved. For instance, I hope to show that theories and beliefs about education will influence strongly the choice and use of different technologies. On the technical side, it is becoming increasingly difficult to classify or categorize technologies, not just because they are changing so fast, but also because technologies have many different qualities and affordances that change according to the contexts in which they are used. On the pragmatic side, I hope to show that it is a mistake to focus solely on the educational characteristics of technologies. There are social, organizational, cost and accessibility issues also to be considered.
But if we consider a teacher facing a group of students and a curriculum to teach, or a learner seeking to develop their own learning, what advice can we give them when they ask whether or not to use one technology or another? Lastly, there are the great unanswered questions still to be asked: what is best done face-to-face and what online, and in what contexts? What is the role of the human teacher, and can/should/will he/she be replaced by technology? These are fundamental questions for education and these posts will attempt (with your help, I hope) to provide some models or frameworks that will enable such questions to be answered, and choices and uses to be made effectively and pragmatically so that the learning experience is optimized.
The aim of these posts is to stimulate thought and discussion among the readers of this site. I know from experience that I don’t have all the answers, that there are areas of this topic where I lack knowledge and understanding, and I am hoping the posts will stimulate wide-ranging discussion. At the same time, I am not starting from a blank page. I will draw heavily on previous work, such as the SECTIONS and ACTIONS models, but with the aim of embedding such models much more strongly in the world of internet-based teaching and learning.
The next post will attempt to look at the history of educational technologies and the issues this raises, but in the meantime I would be interested in your thoughts on the following questions:
1. Do we already have satisfactory models for technology selection and use? if so, which and why?
2. Is this a futile exercise? Is the world of teaching, learning and technology so diverse that we will never be able to develop useful/pragmatic models that can be drawn on for a variety of contexts?
3. How do you make decisions about what technologies to use for teaching or learning – or are they made for you? Why do you choose one technology rather than another? What are the guidelines you use?
To come (these may well vary as I get into it!). I hope to cover one of these every week:
Models for selecting and using technology: 3. Defining the characteristics of educational technologies
Models for selecting and using technology: 4. Media and technology
Models for selecting and using technology: 5: The affordances of different technologies and media
Models for selecting and using technology: 6: Does educational theory help in choosing/using technology?
Models for selecting and using technology: 7. What other factors should we consider? (This post will probably be expanded into separate posts on accessibility, students, costs, and organizational issues).
Models for selecting and using technology: 8. Developing frameworks for selecting and using educational technologies
Models for selecting and using technology: 9. What have we learned?