Ask a Tech Teacher contributor, Christian Miraglia, taught for 36 years before retiring. He has some interesting reflections on technology’s place in education:
Remember the days of Oregon Trail on the old Apple IIe’s or students drawing pictures with Kid Pix. Much has changed since technology has made inroads into education, and much has not. I recently retired from public school teaching after thirty-six years as both a US History teacher and TOSA. I dedicated much of my career to finding the appropriate role of technology in the classroom. Although the pedagogy of utilizing technology was not readily available in the early 1990s for educators, it is ever-present today. Companies with a vested interest in their products publish studies touting their applications. I tend to favor independent studies on technology use which take a more balanced approach. However, one thing seems to be lacking: the input of users who will integrate these products in their daily lessons.
Those first years of the excitement of having a computer for one class in which students would perform of what we would consider a primitive use of gaming seemed so distant. Many platforms offer a more advanced gaming process that builds student vocabulary or is more engaging today. Edudadoo, Endless Alphabet, Spelling City are just a few. Applications on readily available for Chromebooks, IOS, and Microsoft platforms. Integrations into delivery platforms abound. The ongoing debate on whether to use Pear Deck or NearPod is one that I am familiar with. The question arises, “How does one know if the applications have an impact on student learning?”
My approach was to pilot any software application, if possible, for at least 90 days. Most companies offer such opportunities. Although not a data scientist, I documented how the students interacted with the platform. Typically students enjoyed the novelty of something new and exciting, especially if the tools allowed them to become more than passive participants. However, I made sure that students understood that this was a new integration, and it was vital for them to provide feedback on the platform. I remember one particular platform a couple of years ago that had a draw option. Being integrated into my delivery platform, and the students asked if I could incorporate it daily. I had to consider whether the function was more of a distraction because they could spend time drawing or representing learning ideas in my history classroom. After at least 30 days of usage, I concluded that the platform had some perks that enhanced student learning. Not only was I involved in the process, but I utilized student input via a brief survey. Student agency can occur at any level of instruction, including technology integration.
With any type of new platform, the considerable time investment in its usage is a must. Colleagues asked me how much time I dedicated to creating lessons with a new platform. My standard answer was, “For me to judge the efficiency of the product; I had to spend time.” I needed to understand what roadblocks both teachers and students might encounter. In other words, I had to promote the product, knowing most of the ins and outs.
Additionally, I made of point of consulting with other teachers around the nation via Twitter on their experience with the platform. I found that the company was very active in recognizing and promoting teachers’ ideas. Free webinars were also part of my decision to ask for my site to purchase the platform.
Finally, once purchased, I followed social media posts on the product’s upgrades, especially if the product incorporated some type of social-emotional component. Taking students’ pulses in this area was vital, especially during the last two years. I surveyed my students twice a year about instructional delivery and the use of the product. The responses guided my decision to continue the next year or look for another platform.
All of this requires considerable time. Rarely was I part of a conversation that considered the merits of a platform on student outcomes or incorporated data from independent studies. Moreover, many teachers are unaware of technology integration frameworks such as the Technology Integration Matrix (TIMs) and Technology Pedagogical And Content Knowledge (TPACK). The term pedagogy raises flags, but should a pedagogical approach be considered with any type of teaching? So how do we know if the technology used in the classroom works?
After the past two school years, it is clear that technology is here to stay. That said, districts and sites should invest time and resources in evaluating what is working using some of the frameworks mentioned above or other tools that provide data on student learning, commitment, and, yes, meetings. After all, one of the main goals of education is learning. Technology is now one more part of this goal.
Christian Miraglia is a recently retired 36 year educator and now Educational Technology Consultant at t4edtech where he also blogs. He can be found on Twitter @T4edtech and on his YouTube Channel Transformative Edtech.
Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-18 technology for 30 years. She is the editor/author of over a hundred tech ed resources including a K-12 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in tech ed, Master Teacher, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, contributor to NEA Today, and author of the tech thrillers, To Hunt a Sub and Twenty-four Days. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.