To Limit or Not to Limit – That is The Question!

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Thoughts for Discussion

In reading the material provided for Module 1, I found it interesting that most of the professional discussion surrounding technology integration focuses on skills and competencies. In addition to this, I also was interested to discover that much of what is written seems to make the assumption that simply because students have the skills necessary to make use of the technology that they are also able to do this in ways that are appropriate to the classroom setting. According to an article published on The Teaching Centre Journal “Two classroom-based studies reveal that the use of laptops, in particular, can have a positive effect on student attention and learning—if these tools are used for course-related, instructional purposes. However, when in-class laptop-use was not a required part of the class, the students in these studies reported lower levels of engagement and learning.”. If this is indeed the case, and I believe that it most likely is, why are we not discussing the necessity of teaching students about the appropriate use of technology? With the pilot iPad project that my school has undertaken we have found that a large number of grade 8 and 9 students have difficulty understanding the when and the why (but never the how!) of using their devices in the classroom setting. Some parents are even concerned that their children are developing an “addiction” to their devices and that they see them as a toy rather than a tool for learning. How do we teach students about what is appropriate use of technology in a certain situation? Is this our role as educators?  In this new “wired world” when and how is it appropriate to limit access to technology? How do we do this effectively?

21st Century Skills And a 20th Century Gal

This idea of “20th century skills” is very timely for me. Our school has launched a technology renewal this year providing staff with new laptops and iPads and equipping all classrooms with AppleTV and other new technology. There were (are) many on our staff and in our parent community who are thrilled at the exciting changes and have jumped in at the deep end. However, there are a significant number of others who are fearful, frustrated, angry, uncooperative…and the list goes on.  In a Senior Admin. Team meeting today our Head of Technology and Learning estimated that adoption of the new technology amongst staff is 50/50. Without a doubt the new course we are charting has raised many questions and posed problems that, perhaps, we should have seen coming.

Before I finished the readings for Module 1, I found that I already had questions forming in the back of my mind. In the lesson notes Professor Crouse points out that the “documents provide specific recommendations of what children ought to be doing and should be able to do as a result of having access to digital technologies.”. This statement made me wonder about what assumptions we make are making about our students and technology –

Just because they have access to amazing digital technologies are we assuming that, since they can use them, they can also appropriately integrate these ITCs into their learning and their lives?

Chris Dede’s article, Comparing Frameworks for “21st Century Skills”, reminds us that “a skilled teacher is an expert in complex communication, able to improvise answers and facilitate dialogue in the unpredictable, chaotic row of classroom discussion.”, however the majority of us are most definitely not experts in the unpredictable, if somewhat less chaotic, world of technology. In fact, it’s probably fair to say that for the majority of teachers in the classroom right now the idea of tablets, iPods and Smartphones were still firmly in the realm of science fiction when we finished our teacher training.

The OECD reminds us that any discussion of 21st century skills must include a discussion of both skills and competencies. The introduction to the research defines a competence as “more than just knowledge or skills. It involves the ability to meet complete demands […] in a particular context.”. This again brought me back to the question –

Are we paying enough attention to the development of the more complex competencies involved in the use of digital technology or  simply focusing on the skills alone?