As I recall my first uses of technology, my most enjoyable moments centred around “driving” a pink Cadillac (via my arrows keys on my Commodore 64) as I aimed to protect the city of New York from wayward ghosts in Ghostbusters. Even as I rewatch the video footage, I wish I could go back and play again. I wasted hours of my life here.
My first educational technology use that I remember was back in grade 12 and involved a small town computer lab outfitted with a myriad of desktop computers. Each computer had its own memorizing, blinking, green cursor which eagerly awaited my recall of where the “j k l ;” lived. This technology advanced my typing. Period. I don’t even remember word processing. At this point in the blog, I have officially dated myself.
As I think about the evolution of educational technology and begin to narrow my definition, I find it useful to think about my own education. As I grew up, the tools that were available for me to retrieve information were books, encyclopedias, and a school librarian. My collaborators were the peers with whom I’d grown up and my audience for the purpose of sharing was usually my teacher and occasionally my peers. The boundaries within which I worked were known, very specific and very limited. There really was no educational technology (okay – perhaps an overhead, but seriously…) other than my friendly typing program (again … seriously). The joys of a small town 🙂
As I leap to being a learner in EC&I 833, my brain feels like moments of imploding are imminent when I think about all of the educational technology and tools at my fingertips. This is my first Ed Tech grad class. I felt fairly average in my understanding of technology prior to this class. However, since the beginning of this class, I’ve become aware that my previous status as average may have dwindled towards beginner. I’ve been introduced to compfight, feedly, zoom, Google+ and wordpress (as a user) just to a name a few. Each of these require time to learn and understand (and a lot of deep breathing), but each serves a purpose. However, as compared to my public education, the tools that I possess at this point to retrieve information are nearly limitless. My collaborators and audiences are nearly as wide spread.
So what? How has this shift from nearly negligible ed. technology to vast amounts of ed. technology affected my learning and thinking?
- I am a critical thinker. I don’t have to use the one and only source provided to me as truth (aka encyclopedia). I must weed through information to verify truth. In addition, I am not just a consumer of information with the intention of spewing out facts for evaluation, but a producer. In the age of simply consuming information, I was great at memorizing and spewing it back, but I was never a critical thinker.
- I am interconnected. There are bodies and communities to which I belong that are invested in the same ideas and also challenge my ideas. I am forced to see outside of myself, but I also have support as a learner and educator. My community is far more vast that I could’ve ever imagined – both in volume and distance.
- I must embrace change. I find change terrifying… but educational technology is constantly evolving (as are my students) so I choose to stay current (well, I try) and keep learning in order to facilitate learning that is engaging and relevant.
- I am always learning and my learning is richer. I am learning about technology, new teaching practices, new programs and the list goes on. I feel like I can’t learn enough – so my learning becomes richer as I seek deeper understanding. As a teacher, my learning is also fluid between my students and myself. I am not simply a transmitter of knowledge to them. I learn from them; I learn A LOT from them.
Where does this leave me with a definition as I look at my learning with and without educational technology?
In Historical Foundations, Michael Molenda discusses a shift of terminology from audio visual education to educational technology whereby the focus changed from creating and using media to thinking about the context of learning environments based upon psychological theories. This made sense to me as it changed the focus from students interacting with devices to hear/see/create information to thinking about and understanding how students learn. I believe educational technology should always revolve around how students learn and understand the world.
From my own experiences as a learner as well as my experiences as a teacher, I believe educational technology is all about supporting and enhancing the learning of students. It is intentional and purposeful, not an addition. It’s about creating learning that enhances critical thinking and a richer understanding of self and the world. It’s about communication, collaboration and interconnectedness. While devices, programs, and apps are the tools of educational technology, it is my job as an educator to be sure that I know why I am using those tools and how my students’ learning will be enhanced by the use of those tools.
Without intention and purpose, I believe educational technology loses its educational component and simply becomes technology. I appreciated the following statements from Postman’s conclusion within Five Things We Need To Know About Technological Change and will keep them in the back of my head …
The best way to view technology is as a strange intruder, to remember that technology is not part of God’s plan but a product of human creativity and hubris, and that its capacity for good or evil rests entirely on human awareness of what it does for us and to us.
We need to proceed with our eyes wide open so that we may use technology rather than be used by it.
FYI – I was definitely used by the Commodore 64’s version of Ghostbusters …..