When analyzing the historical overview of educational technology, certain patterns emerge that indicate the importance of how technology should be carefully integrated in modern education. From the early introduction of radios and film projectors into classrooms in the 1940s teachers have been presented with bitter-sweet tools which can in many ways enhance student learning while in other ways present new and unique problems. Over the years various technologies have come and gone like fads despite grand claims that this latest gadget, perhaps a VHS player which is now obsolete, would revolutionize how students learn. In some cases the technology itself would be at fault, being too limited in its capabilities. In other examples it was the lack of training or available resources to support the teacher’s or student’s’ use of the device that led to it being put aside or used incorrectly. Other factors, such as the limited budgets of many schools and school districts, also have an impact on how technology is integrated into education. Despite the push and pull of the use of technology in the classroom over the years, modern research suggests that the effective and appropriate use of technology can have great benefits for students (Roblyer, 2016). Furthermore, modern students need to become prepared for life in an increasingly digital and connected world.
The project I will be working on this semester involves 5th grade students attending the San Diego Natural History Museum (theNAT) to study the impact humans have on the environment. The culminating group project the students create is a research poster designed to raise awareness of human impact. The students’ posters will be displayed in a special exhibition area inside the museum so real museum patrons will see their work and read their research. The students in this program are from an underprivileged community and all qualify for the free lunch program. As such many have infrequent access to technology. Although the school subscribes to a 1:1 laptop program, the devices are severely underutilized. The students generally read below their grade level and as most are second language learners they struggle to write and speak in English. The Museum Educator at theNAT would like the students to shift from using paper resources in the creation of their projects to a digital platform. In this respect technology tools can be utilized to demonstrate eco-friendly practices in addition to streamlining the project process using free and accessible software like Google drive, slides and sites. Not only will the students be learning how to become responsible global citizens, they will also be practicing skills which will benefit them later in life, such as research and multimedia creation skills.
An additional concern of the Museum Educator is that many of the students can be disruptive and disengaged in the content they are supposed to be learning. Although the authenticity of a real audience motivates some students, many don’t take the task seriously and turn their attention to other things. Providing the students with iPads and collaborative software tools may help engage those students (Roblyer, 2016). Content specific websites with technical illustrations and a variety of multimedia resources to choose from, such as video tutorials, can also redirect students attention back to the task at hand. These technologies also enable students to move at their own pace through the content if the teacher adopts a constructivist approach and encourages students to take responsibility for their learning. While it is important that the students have access to these tools, it is equally important that they use the tools appropriately and learn what it means to be a digital citizen. One area of concern is the access students will have to the internet and the potential for students visiting unreliable websites or even worse, websites with inappropriate material. This is why I will be recommending the creation of content specific websites populated with information by the Museum Educator. Given direct links to the websites this should cut down on the need for students to be searching the web.
Shifting the pedagogy from a traditional objectivist approach to a more contemporary social constructivist approach while also introducing modern technology tools such as tablets (iPads) and cloud-based software is likely to have a large impact on student engagement and participation. If the Museum Educator relied on traditional strategies of standing in front of a blackboard and lecturing while thinking of the students as vessels to be filled with information, the students would find little voice and choice in their studies and many are likely to disconnect from the content. Furthermore the students would spend less time practicing the kinds of skills they will need later in life. Adopting a constructivist approach means students can take responsibility for their own learning and potentially move through the material at their own pace. With the students busily engaged in their work the Museum Educator will find she has more time to spend working with those students who require the most help (individually or in small groups). Without the integration of modern tech tools, such as iPads and Google software, the students would need to spend too much time working on low level tasks such as cutting paper and coloring in instead of higher level tasks including designing, researching and writing.
I believe that this curriculum could benefit greatly from the introduction of modern technology tools and that this will not only enhance and streamline the project creation process but will also empower students with new skills required for the 21st century workplace. It is my hope that the students will also unlock their creativity when given the opportunity to use the tools that are often not accessible to them. In addition, I’d like to utilize technology which can help those students with special needs to participate and contribute at their fullest potential. Ultimately the main goal for integrating technology into this curriculum will be to model eco-friendly practices by going paperless and moving to a digital platform however, there are many other ways technology can and should enhance learning.
Blair, N. (2012). National Association of Elementary School Principals: Serving all elementary and middle-level principals. Retrieved May 28, 2017, from http://www.naesp.org/principal-januaryfebruary-2012-technology/technology-integration-new-21st-century-learner
Roblyer, M.D. (2016). Integrating educational technology into teaching. (7 ed). Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc.