The Need For ‘Collaboratories’

A key feature of my teaching and work with educators is to foster a form of what I regard as techno–resilience and a capacity for technology leadership that can help hurdle some of the financial and emotional barriers that persist within the teaching profession. The fact is, many educators still cite the same barriers that existed more than 20 years ago when I was teaching with technology in the classroom! Much of what I do is inherently embedded in my philosophy and is revealed in the form of cultivating a mindset that values the need for a connected, relevant, and inspiring curriculum that embraces technology at some level. Notable is that technology does not have to be at the centre of it all, but always in the consciousness.

For example, at the onset of a typical class or work shop, I provide an opportunity to collaboratively explore a cost-effective technology that I have picked up at a second-hand store or on sale; this is called “Rob’s Techno Inspirational Moment.” The range of technologies explored has included digital voice recorders, digital cameras, USB digital drum pads, iPods, digital photo frames, and a variety of relatively cost-effective USB driven devises and freeware programs. Not surprising to me, this exercise in group collaboration (I call these ‘collaboratories’) with a focus on pedagogy and discovery that challenges the educators to reflect upon and connect with their classroom experiences, almost always reveals a myriad of creative cross-curricular ideas for how the given technology can be used across a range of grade levels. The intent is also to demonstrate that technology enhanced learning goes beyond the use of SMART Boards (a common misconception that persisted with many of my former students). This practice also models the type of collaboration and creativity that is required in order for a technology to afford itself; it is part of the teaching and workshop process that I have devised for shaping a skill set and the appropriate attitude required for adapting technology within the disparate, jagged, and rocky teaching landscape that currently exists in Ontario schools specific to technology enhanced learning.

Technology Enhanced Teaching and Learning: Promise of Hope or Technolust?

ICT: Technolust or Promise of Hope?

In my past educational technology leadership classes, I often began by stating, “If you truly believe the educational technology that we are going to explore today does not have the potential to inspire and lead to higher levels of classroom engagement and learning, find another tool that does.” Underscoring all of my technology-enhanced teaching and learning investigations is a discussion of the pedagogical underpinnings for a particular technology’s use. A critical, complex, and often misunderstood relationship exists among the use of information and communication technology (ICT), the practice of teaching, and the affiliated act of learning.

As argued by Kirkwood and Price (2006), ICT merely offer tools to help students and teachers attain educational outcomes. Although not a new message, central to their argument is the idea that, although technology can enable new forms of teaching and learning, ICT alone will not somehow magically afford itself to educators; it must be driven by educational purposes. The problem of “putting the “T”(echnology) before the “P”(edagogy),” Lin (2007) views as having some inherent and serious ethical issues. According to Lin, the key ethical issue is that the technology often takes precedent over the learning needs, “or each new technology is used as a replacement for all existing learning methodologies” (p. 416).

PS- technolust is a big problem in our schools…given this time of considerable fiscal restraint, schools can’t afford to be purchasing expensive technologies without having first truly researched and explored their impact on learning. I suggest making vendors more accountable by allowing trial periods for educators and students prior to purchasing….just one of my principles of technoresiliency!

*the above is an excerpt taken from my a book chapter I wrote-

Graham, R (2013). Inspirational Transitions: Cultivating the Capacity to Embrace Technology-Enhanced Learning and Teaching in Elliott-Johns, S.E. & Jarvis, D.H. (Eds). Perspectives on transitions in schooling and instructional practice. Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press.

Perspectives On Transitions in Schooling and Instructional Practice

Time to Make IT (information technology) Happen!

Making IT (information technology) Happen Then and Now: Have We Really Come That Far?

Making the transition from classroom teacher to university professor, it was my role to help preservice teacher candidates in the Schulich School of Education transition their use and understanding of technology. I endeavoured to change my students perception of technology from what I regard as a limited, egocentric use of it (e.g. Facebook), to understanding it as a tool with the potential to connect and vitalize learning and teaching in the classrooms they visited during their practicum experiences and, would ultimately, teach in full-time.

Today, my aim is to expand the vision for learning and teaching through my teaching and writing beyond the traditionally accepted chalk-and-talk pedagogy to a learning framework that values diversity, promotes inquiry, and attempts to connect with the experiences and passions of students. I regularly encourage the educators I collaborate with to “make IT (information technology) happen!” Central to this message is the forewarning that making it happen today requires a tremendous amount of vision, pedagogical understanding, resourcefulness, creativity, and passion. Unfortunately, many of the preservice teachers I have instructed over the past nine years reported a considerable lack of these critical elements at their practicum schools. Some even asked me, why technology at all? The image of the jagged and unequal technological landscape that I had to traverse at the onset of my teaching career (more than 22 years ago) endures today.

Given the rapid advancement of technological tools in the 21st century, the recognition that educational technology is not embraced by all is somewhat surprising, and disconcerting. As Schaffhauser (2009) observes, “Why is a generation of teachers more knowledgeable about technology than any before arriving in classrooms with little understanding of how to teach with it?” (p. 27).

Offering some clarification on the matter, Livingstone (2012) suggests, “The difficulty in establishing traditional benefits, and the uncertainty over pursuing alternative benefits, raises fundamental questions over whether society really desires a transformed, technologically-mediated relation between teacher and learner” (2012, p.1). Further, Livingstone advises there is little doubt in her mind that society’s main motivation for students’ use of digital devices hinges on the potential benefits it offers education. In noting some of the considerable challenges that face educators’ integration of technology enhanced teaching and learning (TETL), her observations of disparity and differential use of TETL mirror my own throughout my career. Her observation that “child-oriented digital creativity” (p.13) is only evident among a minority of students, as well as her call for more equality in this regard, reflect concerns and issues that Selwyn (2012) brings forward. In this sense, my experiences, research, and writing share a fundamental connection to their work, in that they recognize that the disparate and unequal use of TETL is a fundamental concern. My ambition is to continue to gain a better understanding of how and why some educators are making use of TETL, in spite of existing challenges; my work reflects a desire to take the research focus and staff room conversation beyond what Selwyn regards as a techno-centric, and limited, focus on the notion of barriers and impediments…this is just a snippet of the type of content found in my new book.

The Need For Resiliency!

Today, the need for resiliency has never been greater. In this time of hyper-accountability and efficiency, people are being asked to do more with less. Based upon this reality, it is my assertion that educators must now ask fundamental questions about how and why they are doing what they are doing with technology in classrooms. In the end, I will always challenge educators to find cost-effective ways to make technology work….it is not always about having a class set of something…what can you do with just one iPad or one digital video recorder? In my book I explore and examine how some educators and students are making technology work with limited resources…what I found out surprised me!