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4 Questions & Answers about Technology Integration (from a journalist to me)

A journalist, Emily S., is writing a piece about 1:1 technology initiatives for the Highland Lakes Newspapers (The Highlander, Burnet Bulletin, Llano County Journal, Lake Country Life) and requested to ask me some questions. I share the questions and my answers here.

Q: What are some ways technology has changed the typical classroom? What do you think is the biggest change (for teachers, for students)?

Technology does not inherently change classrooms. But some uses of technology can change the approach to instruction shifting it from teacher-centric, teacher-controlled to instruction and learning that is more student-centered. This is more likely to occur when the technology is put in the hands of the students, as opposed to technologies that are teacher-centric, such as projectors, teacher computers, grading and attendance software. Putting technology in the hands of the students can give the learners more agency in their learning, in which they might be able to choose the best way to engage in a task. Or student might even design an inquiry learning task.

Given that, though, 1:1 implementations do not always create such a student-centered learning environment. My research and others in the field also show school classroom environments in which students who all have computing devices simply take notes of teacher lectures or creating presentations that summarize textbook chapters. In these settings, the technology is having no impact toward changing pedagogy or learning.

The biggest change is vastness of information on the Internet and available apps. Schools think that they’ll eliminate textbooks in order to buy laptops or tablets. But this shifts the curricular development onto the shoulders of teachers who are not only trying to learn a new technology but now also have to curate an entire year’s curriculum using open educational resources (educational resources that are available on the internet for free) that are seemingly endless. While the idea of having teachers create their own curriculum and choose resources is amazing, this responsibility cannot just be dropped onto teachers’ shoulders with no notice, support, or resources for development.

Q: How can teachers avoid side-effects of technology, such as decreases in attention spans, being easily distracted?

The best way to avoid students from being distracted (daydreaming, shopping on the internet, ordering take-out for lunch, playing off-task games) is to create vibrant, interesting, motivating lessons that involve students in interactive ways that lead students to developing new knowledge (that solve real problems – even better if the problems are community-based!).

Q: Do you think students are apt to give up more quickly when the answers don’t come easily? (Students might get used to instant answers, in other words…)

Motivational theory puts forth that learners maintain motivation when given series of short, attainable goals that have importance. Designing instructional activities, then, would lead a teacher not to create assessments that have short, instant answers, but instead are complex problems that require inquiry. The answers are unique and are not necessarily known already by the teacher or the students. Through the inquiry, the teacher would work with students in developing small goals that, as each are completed, help the students move farther towards solving the larger problem.

Overall, students are not motivated by worksheets that ask for one answer, which reflects information easily found in textbooks or on the Internet.

Q: Do you think using technology in the classroom makes students less sociable? How can teachers avoid this pitfall?

For the most part, I do not think that technology in the classroom makes students less sociable. But it all depends on how the teacher organizes the use of technology.

If the teacher implements a “personalized” tutoring software in which students put on earphones and listen to problems on a computer screen and answer multiple choice questions individually, then YES this approach to the use of technology makes students less sociable.
If the teacher implements an inquiry-based lesson in which students (in groups) are using tablets to collect data about our social world, pull the data into data analysis software (such as spreadsheet or visualization tools) and find answers to the inquiry, then NO, technology IS supporting social learning, which is optimal for learning to occur.

Most contemporary technologies are social and interactive technologies. Educational apps that do not have features that allow collaboration, sharing, and publication are not supportive of optimal pedagogy and learning.
The general public can simply reflect on what technologies motivate them to engage? They will most likely realize the technologies they are excited to be involved in involve small doable challenges (video games with levels), social interaction with other people (Facebook, twitter), interest-based social groups (the biking club, the knitting club), creating or sharing (e.g., a writers group, photography site).

Situational ingenuity of teachers: The key to transformative, content-focused technology integration

Yesterday, I spent a very enjoyable day at the University of Houston, Victoria School of Education. In addition to meeting with them to discuss their new educational technology degree program, I presented for a colloquium that drew university professors, PK-12 teachers in the Victoria school district, and university students. I met several 5th grader teachers – two who were sitting near each other and work in two of the more rural schools in Victoria – so they got to meet each other. There was a gentleman who taught a plethora of subjects at a high school – crossing both science and history. I met about 6 undergraduates who are earning their degrees in teaching. And UHV university student recruited his mom, also a practicing teacher, to attend. Several of the COE and UHV administration was also in attendance. As advertised, it was quite a diverse audience.

In my presentation (see below), I share my vision for the use of digital technologies in education. I refer to it as transformative, content-focused classroom technology integration. I illustrate this concept through 3 stories of practice: from teachers, a school and its district, and a college of education. Tom is a mathematics teachers who designs a lesson with ropes, video, ipads, and graphing calculators to help students learn to write an equation for a trig function. Hilly High School began a iPad learning innovation in which all students receive iPads – I share how they developed their vision which included both a technology-focus and a learning-focus. Finally, I share data on preservice teachers’ use of social technologies and discuss how COEs could design a set of experiences that would develop preservice teachers to be connected educators. These will show the possibilities but also many of the challenges involved in this work. In these stories, I hope that you’ll discover ways that you, as a teacher, a school leader, a teacher educator, a parent, can assist in this transformation. I end by describing “situational ingenuity” and how I see teachers as most interested in this challenging work in their classrooms and how I see it as the key to designing content-focused, technology-supported innovations in classrooms.


AERA 2014 Presentations

Join us for our paper presentations at this year’s American Educational Research Conference in Philadelphia, PA.

Paper 1
Presenters: Joan E. Hughes, Michelle F. Read @MiShe11e, Sara J. Jones @sara_jones
Title of Paper: A Predictive Profile of Youths’ Web 2.0 Outside-School Activities
Day, Time, Location of Presentation: Saturday, April 5, 2:45-4:15 PM, Convention Center, Terrace Level, Terrace IV

Abstract: This quantitative study used multiple regression to identify predictors of middle school students’ Web 2.0 activities out of school, a composite variable constructed from 15 technology activities. Three middle schools participated in the study and 6th and 7th grade students completed an online survey. Independent predictor variables included school, gender, ethnicity, grade level, computer limits at home, assigned computer-based homework at school, total gadgets at home, Web 2.0 activities in school, traditional technology activities in school and three interaction variables. Results reveal a model explaining 25% of the variance, with statistically significant predictors including: school, ethnicity, grade, total gadgets, and the interaction of school and in-school Web 2.0 activities. Knowing what students do outside of school, and how in-school and out-of-school variables may impact such activity may assist educators in planning for technology in instruction and learning that both leverage what students are already doing or may wish they were doing, making learning motivating and connected to real life.

Paper 2
Presenters: Joan E. Hughes, Audrey De Zeeuw, Min Wook Ok
Title of Paper: Leadership and Vision in a High School 1:1 iPad Innovation in Practice
Day Time, Location of Presentation: Monday, April 7; 8:15-9:45 AM; Convention Center, Terrace Level, Terrace IV

Abstract: This research examines the school and district leadership practices, including setting direction, developing people, and making the organization work, in the first year of a 1:1 iPad innovation in practice at Hilly High School (HHS) in the southwestern United States. Participants included 6 district and 4 high school leaders. The study employed descriptive case study methodology with ethnographic elements including interviews and observations. Results depict a distributed leadership model across all leadership practices. Direction for the iPad innovation began with the superintendent’s noticing of a strategic planning technology gap, was solidified when leaders attended an Apple event, supported by a community valuing high achievement, and funded by the Board. Professional learning included short formal and a series of informal opportunities but overall was challenged due to budget cuts that reduced teachers’ time and technology integration support. Organizationally, infrastructural improvements to wireless networking were foremost. The district hired a mobile technology specialist mid-year to support integration efforts. Advisory input expanded to include pilot teachers, students, and a vision committee. Collaborations with the community were emphasized. This research reveals the importance of a distributed leadership network, a coherent yet flexible vision for the educational innovation, and openness and support for including new perspectives, such as from students and community members. Readers will need to generalize from the rich case description to their own contexts of practice or research.

New Book Chapter: iTeach and iLearn with iPads in Secondary English language arts

A book chapter I wrote with Gregory Russell (@mrgsrussell), “iTeach and iLearn with iPads in secondary English language arts,” is now out in print in the amazing book, The New Landscape of Mobile Learning: Redesigning Education, edited by Charles Miller and Aeron Doering. This research stems from my larger research study of a suburban high school in their first year of implementing iPads across their high school population. Following is a description of our chapter (note: since we wrote this chapter almost two years ago, there has been empirical research published on the topic.)

Photo of the book cover

Book Cover

“iTeach and iLearn with iPads in secondary English language arts” Chapter Abstract

Tablet computers like the iPad seem to be well-suited for educational purposes, but no empirical research yet exists that examines its potential. This chapter shares the stories of Brett and Julie, two veteran high school English teachers who are integrating iPads into their classrooms for the first time as a part of a 1:1 iPad initiative at Hilly High School. We share an analysis of their practices, developed over the past year via weekly classroom observations, formal interviews and numerous informal discussions. From these risk-taking practitioners, we identify and discuss issues related to pedagogy, assessment, new media literacies, efficiencies, student behavior, engagement, distractibility, and academic integrity. Results indicate that the iPad improves the efficiencies of learning activities but also introduces new classroom management issues. Many teaching and learning activities with the iPad can be both engaging or distracting. Our findings may prove useful to districts, schools, and practitioners who venture to establish similar ubiquitous tablet-supported educational innovations.

The book is available here:

http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415539241/

http://www.amazon.com/The-New-Landscape-Mobile-Learning/dp/0415539242

As always, if you would like to read my chapter and are unable to get a copy, please email me at joanh @ austin . utexas . edu

AERA 2013 Presentation: iTeach and iLearn with iPads in Secondary Langauge Arts

Last week, Gregory Russell and I presented our recent research on the use of iPads in high school English language arts classrooms. We attended the American Educational Research Association annual conference, which occurred in San Francisco this year.

The following linked presentation is a slidecast with the actual presentation by Greg. Enjoy! And please let us know if you have questions or comments. We’d love to hear from you.

Update: Please note the audio slidecast feature has been discontinued in Slideshare effective April 30, 2014. After that date, please consult the notes added in the PowerPoint for the content that we shared. Or you may listen to the audiocast of the presentation using the following audioplayer:

 

CEC 2013 Presentation: Teaching and learning with iPads for high school students with disabilities

Please view and share the presentation “Teaching and learning with iPads for high school students with disabilities” by Minwook Ok and Joan Hughes. Minwook presented this paper for us at the Council for Exceptional Children conference in 2013. This presentation reflects research we’ve been conducting in a high school where all the students have iPads. This particular work reflects teaching and learning in a modified biology classroom.

New Book Chapter: iTeach and iLearn with iPads in secondary English language arts

I co-authored a book chapter with Ph.D. student, Gregory Russell, that is due out in Spring 2013. The chapter emerges from my research study iTeach and iLearn with iPads and reflects a year of data collection in a high school that created a ubiquitous environment for iPad-supported teaching and learning. The article is set within what I think will be a superb collection of  chapters in Charles Miller and Aaron Doering’s The new landscape of mobile learning: Re-designing education in an app-based world.

Scholarly Reference to the Book Chapter:

Russell, G. S. & Hughes, J.E. (In Press/Pub Date: Spring 2013.) iTeach and iLearn with iPads in secondary English language arts. In C. Miller & A. Doering (Eds.) The new landscape of mobile learning: Re-designing education in an app-based world. New York: Routledge.

 Following is the abstract of the chapter: 

Tablet computers like the iPad seem to be well-suited for educational purposes, but no empirical research yet exists that examines its potential. This chapter shares the stories of Brett and Julie, two veteran high school English teachers who are integrating iPads into their classrooms for the first time as a part of a 1:1 iPad initiative at Hilly High School. We share an analysis of their practices, developed over the past year via weekly classroom observations, formal interviews and numerous informal discussions. From these risk-taking practitioners, we identify and discuss issues related to pedagogy, assessment, new media literacies, efficiencies, student behavior, engagement, distractability, and academic integrity. Results indicate that the iPad improves the efficiencies of learning activities but also introduces new classroom management issues. Many teaching and learning activities with the iPad can be both engaging or distracting. Our findings may prove useful to districts, schools, and practitioners who venture to establish similar ubiquitous tablet-supported educational innovations.

We welcome questions and feedback regarding our work with this project. We are currently working on a manuscript focused on school leaders’ perspectives on the iPads and support mechanisms or iPad technology integration.

If you are unable to obtain a copy of this work, please email me [joanh at austin dot utexas dot edu], and I will gladly share a copy with you.