Determining Success of Technology Integration in Classrooms, Schools, and Districts (Part 4)

 

I ended my last post by writing that attaining the top stage of popular models of technology integration was often equated with “success.” I stated that it was “unfortunate.”

Why?

The top stage in each model (and similar ones) implies that when the teacher has reached this apex of implementation, students are thoroughly engaged in learning tasks and the classroom has become a site of active student learning—the unspoken goal of process-driven cheerleaders of student-centered classrooms. In effect, those teachers who have reached the top rung of the ladder have fully implemented technology to produce the highest levels of student involvement in learning content and skills. Implicitly, that top rung becomes the gold standard of effective teaching in integrating technologies into classroom lessons. And that is unfortunate.

What many smart people ignore or forget is that describing exemplars of technology integration is not synonymous with student-centered teaching. And student-centered teaching is not the same as “success” in student learning. This bias toward one form of teaching leading to student “success”–however defined–is historic (see here).

After all, should K-12 teacher practices change when they reach the apex of the models for integrating technology into their lessons? Certainly, the technologies themselves do not require such a fundamental change from teacher-centered to student-centered. Evidence of technology use in Europe, Asia, and the Americas  (see JECR PDF) have pointed out how powerful devices often end up being used to support teacher-centered instruction.

What’s missing from the assumption that student-centered learning is the same as “successful” technology integration is that reaching the final stage in these models says little about whether students have actually learned anything from the content- and skill-driven classroom lessons they have experienced. Advocates of these technology integration models assume that engagement—the process of hooking children and youth into learning—will move teachers to become student-centered and that shift in practice will yield gains in academic achievement.  Maybe.

I say “maybe” because there is a prior crucial step that needs elaboration and documentation before anyone can determine what students have learned.  Although existing models of technology integration believe that engagement and student-centered classroom practices will produce gains in academic achievement, the book I am now researching will not test this underlying assumption. In my research, thus far, I focus on whether exemplary teachers, schools, and districts in integrating technologies into daily practices have altered what occurs daily in classrooms.

Why focus on changes in classroom teaching and not student outcomes? My answer goes back to the central issue of putting new technologies into daily practice. The all-important implementation question–too often overlooked, ignored, or forgotten by champions of new technologies–remains: have teachers altered their classroom practices as a consequence of using new technologies? Without such changes in teaching practices, then student learning and outcomes can hardly be expected to improve. That statement is a fundamental belief in establishing and operating any formal school, past and present. Thus, without changes in daily classroom practice, any gains in student academic achievement could not be attributed to what happens in classrooms. Improved measures of student achievement might then be the result of changes in student demography, school leadership, shifts in organizational culture or other factors–not what teachers were doing everyday with students. In my research, then, I am concentrating on determining to what degree teachers have altered how they teach as a consequence of integrating new technologies into their lessons.

Far too little research has been done in answering this question about changes in teaching practices. So in researching and writing this book, I, too, focus on the process of classroom change and not yet how much and to what degree students have learned from these lessons. Once changes in classroom practices can be documented then, and only then, can one begin to research how much and to what degree students have learned content and skills. As you have probably guessed by now, that would be another book, not the one I will be writing.

 

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Filed under how teachers teach, school reform policies, technology use

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