Photo by Brad Flickinger. CC BY 2.0
Several of us from NCSSM attended Elon University’s Teaching and Learning Conference. If you haven’t had a chance to check it out, it’s a great conference and it’s free!
A highlight for me this year was a presentation by instructional technologist Michael Vaughn aimed at introducing a framework to analyze technology and quickly identify its potential effectiveness. The idea is to use technology intentionally within the pedagogical context of the lesson. Technology should never be about the tools or shiny gadgets — but about your pedagogical goals.
He noted that the introduction of educational technology fails for a number of reasons:
- Unrealistic Expectations: This happens when technology is sold as being the “answer to all your problems”. When it isn’t, people get mad.
- Forced Solutions: This happens when people are forced to use something when the thing they were using before worked just fine. For example, Paper Has a Great Future!
- Fear of Failure or Foolishness: No one wants to look inept in front of their students.
- Lack of Support: The steeper the learning curve, the higher the failure rate.
When introducing new educational technology it’s important to be pragmatic. Technology is not perfect, it’s a tool — not a learning outcome. Technology is not required and always works best in specific context.
The framework Vaughan discussed is called SAMR, a model for helping educators more effectively utilize technology in teaching and learning. The idea is to not focus on the tool, but the learning process. In other words, always ask yourself “what learning process does this technology enable?”
There are 4 levels in the framework:
- S – Substitution: Here you are basically swapping one technology for another and there’s no change in the learning process. For example, instead of students turning in a paper as a word document they turn in a paper through an LMS.
- A – Augmentation: Here you are still swapping one technology for another, but you gain some functionality. An example of this would be to have students include links and photos to enhance their writing. Now they are researching related external sources and illustrating their writing with images.
- M – Modification: This is when you use technology to significantly redesign what students are doing. For example, have the students post their writing to a blog that’s shared with an external audience. This now makes it possible for students to interact with that external audience. It raises the stakes for students and adds another level of meaning to their writing.
- R – Redefinition: Here you use technology to create a brand new task that was previously inconceivable. For example have your students read and compile the best blog posts and publish a book utilizing self-publishing services such as Createspace. Now students are not only writing, they are evaluating, analyzing, thinking critically and creating knowledge.
The next time you’re thinking about adding technology to a lesson, evaluate how that technology can change what students are learning to do. Think about how you can use technology to modify or redefine something your students do in the classroom to make it more meaningful and memorable. The goal is to improve learning outcomes — as opposed to using technology to simply replace the reliable piece of paper.Credit: Sylvia Duckworth, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0