Pagliaro, J. (2010) Apple America: Why Canada’s learning technology experts say tech handouts are lackluster Macleans, May 17
Another disappointing article from a national journal, this time Maclean’s of Canada. It went after Canadian reaction to giving out the latest technology to students. Not much to learn from it, but it’s here for the record.
Generally, my view is that students are usually ahead of faculty in acquiring the latest technology, so why give them stuff they are already likely to buy for themselves? If they are not likely to have it already, why would you use it?
However, there is one exception I would make to this. We don’t have enough innovation in teaching, and it would be good to see faculty, using decent evaluation methods, exploring the potential role of new technologies for teaching and learning. This might require buying some iPads or iPhones just for the purposes of trying them out with a small group of students – provided students are happy to be part of such an experiment, and there is a clear learning strategy behind the choice of the technology.
However, our research funding agencies (and the ethics committees in particular) probably couldn’t handle this kind of improptu research and evaluation – by the time they agreed to funding, the technology would already be obsolete.
See also: A good reason to give students iPads?
I agree wholeheartedly with the notion that we just don’t, as a “sector” have enough innovation. We are still mired in fairly old ideas about education delivery, learning, student aptitude, etc. For me, these are some of the biggest barriers to understanding the transformative potential of new media and technologies in education.
I’ve encountered just too much fear and recalcitrance to exploring how our assignments, teaching methods, expectations of students, learning spaces, etc. ought to change in order to enhance learning processes. I’ve also encountered an inability to think about technology as more than the manipulation of sophisticated hardware/software.
Here’s a basic situation I encountered that connects to both of the concerns above: I wanted to use my iPhone in the classroom through a wireless connection to the teacher desktop station — thus controlling from the back of the room what the station was displaying and projecting to a big screen. As long as I established a wi-fi connection I could use Keynote on my iPhone to control Keynote on the teacher desktop station Mac. This would allow me to stay in a circle with my students, discussing, controlling the slides (which were really questions and prompts for students to think with me). I couldn’t do it. Why? Because technology services had not installed wireless cards on the desktop computers. Why? Because, they said, those were stationary computers, why would they need wireless cards if they were not mobile?
That is what I call an “Immaculate Misconception” of tremendous proportions. They failed to understand that mobility in this case (and goodness knows increasingly almost always) is a relationship of the teacher, the human being, and the technology, not just of the apparatus. What needed to be “mobile” for enhancing teaching and learning was not the desktop computer, but me.
Defensiveness ensued once I pointed it out.
We need indeed good pedagogical thinking and plans behind our exploration — and we ought to put some assumptions on the table immediately — so that we just don’t try to shoehorn the technology into antiquated ways of thinking about learning.