Monday, November 18, 2013

More or Less? What's the Rush?

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Claire Burns, a current student in my course helps a Cristo Rey parent learn about the grading portal at a parent workshop last week for her Service Learning Project.

Technology has drastically reshaped the educational and political landscapes.  Those who have proper tools, resources, and knowledge about how to use it, are granted access to information that can fundamentally augment the quality of their future life experiences.   Those who lack the tools to discover and utilize the newest innovations (frequently racial and ethnic minorities, and those from a lower socioeconomic background) find themselves chronically disadvantaged and misinformed, while those with proper information gain autonomy through technology.   As educators, teachers and administrators must prevent these technological advances from furthering the digital divide between the haves and have-nots to create true education in all communities.

MORE! What about training for parents?

In Bridging the Digital Divide by Increasing Computer and Cancer Literacy, two community technology centers were developed in affiliation with Head Start in primarily Latino and African American communities to help equip parents and families to live in a technologically informed society.  By introducing parents to the computer, internet, and other tools as an incentive (they were offered refurbished computers or cash for completing the program), bilingual setting, the school helped improve community perceptions of technology while also raising cancer awareness.  The low-income community was eager to learn, and the study pointed out the efficacy of offering free, non-traditional, one-day courses to families, through data that shows the positive impact was still being observed three months after the course

Similar to this study, educators can participate in creating a socially-just world by inviting parents and relatives to short workshops that explore not only the computer at large, but the specific technological tools that their students are expected to know and use.  Familiarization with how these tools operate and what they can be used for will create a lasting impact on families by empowering them to engage in their children’s schooling.  For example, an elementary teacher who plans to use an iPad app or online game to help kids learn about different food groups could demonstrate those apps to parents in their native language when possible, so that they can encourage their kids to revisit the website from elsewhere.   Furthermore, utilizing technology community courses, newsletters, blogs, etc, to introduce parents to the tools their kids will be using, can effectively address other concerns, for example, health and wellness, while helping the community build a valuable skill set for future employment and participation in the rapidly-increasing technological culture.  Teachers and administrators who initiate parent involvement in their children’s learning by offering services and skills that the community already desires and needs will help to bridge the digital gap and create a fairer, stronger future generation of leaders and thinkers. By doing so, such educators demonstrate that they have the skills, passion, and innovative spirit to tackle broad challenges technology introduces by utilizing technology as a means of education instead of separation.  We have seen this helpful model at Cristo Rey as my students have given several parent workshops on how to use the iPad and access resources needed for important information regarding their child(children).

LESS? What about training for teachers?

The article, Secondary Students' Resistance Toward Incorporating Computer Technology into Mathematics Learning, addresses students' and teachers' feedback in regards to technology being used efficiently in the classroom. Several concerns are addressed to focus on the appropriate use of technology. The research addresses student's perspectives ranging from age 12-17. The decision to utilize technology for math learning was mainly selected because of the reduction in education costs; not for an enhancement in learning that is reflected by test scores. Another area of digital divide, reduction of resources where technology is seen as a way to save money in a potentially negative way. When this research was completed no justification was required for the use of technology in the classroom.

Students were being used as "guinea pigs" while unprepared teachers select computer based programs without testing the programs or becoming familiar with their possible educational benefits. The teachers were not clearly trained on the program, nor the effective implementation of the program with their students.  The students were asked a series of questions related to technology in the classroom. According to their responses, the pen-and-paper method is still viewed as a reliable step-by-step process. Other students viewed spreadsheets, computer programs, and computers as added frustration or stress to the learning process. The students were also concerned with the school maintaining proper updates to avoid computer delays and security issues. 
This raises the overall issue of: we want to train parents about the technology being used at schools. What happens if the teachers are not properly trained or if the use of technology is not effective for the students? In this realm of technology integration, LESS is MORE. Meaning, schools must properly train teachers first, then the process lends itself to: enhancement of learning through the balance of technology tools with students, AND effective integration and training parents. 

Taking the time to for training occurs is of highest importance. Even if that means, slowly infusing technology into the school. There's no rush, technology is here to stay!

SPECIAL THANKS TO: my graduate students Rachel Beil and Aesha Griffin for sharing their thoughts and evidence of research in this blog.

A few questions to think about:  
  1. How could you incorporate a community technological outreach similar to the one mentioned here to combat those issues and shrink the gap between groups? 
  2. Wiould it be more beneficial for teachers who are less experienced with technology to avoid the usage of technology in the classroom a majority of the time, or implement technology in the classroom regardless of their lack of skills, experience, and knowledge?
  3. Should students have the option to reject the use of technology if they are capable of learning more efficiently without the help of technology?
by S. M.D'Souza & L. N. Wood


  1. My response is in regard to question #2. I think technology does need to be implemented into the classroom. Those teachers who are inexperienced do not need to omit the use of technology from their class, however they need to gradually add it in as they are properly trained on how to use what ever type of technology they are wanting to utilize. Trial and error does occur however, it is important for a teacher to have most of the kinks worked out before he/she trys to implement anything into the classroom.

    1. The above response was posted by Kristen Baker....I forgot to include that.

  2. I believe that education is the field that never stops giving. Teachers cannot avoid technology because of their inexperience. They need to get training and develop those skills. Learning from the school's technology teacher can begin an informal way of learning until they are able to take a class or a series of workshops. I have experienced a teacher who did not even know how to use her e-mail. The lack of knowledge not only effects her ability to be a competitive teacher but also an effective employee.

  3. Alison Eaton

    While in an ideal world a teacher would use her free time to organize, promote, and hold a community outreach technology seminar, the truth is that many teachers do not have time to do this. One way I could see a teacher minimizing the digital divide by educating parents would be to include a short tutorial during parent-teacher conferences. The teacher could familiarize the parent with a small aspect of technology the students will be using for that class. Through this simple act, the teacher is including the parent, who may have previously been alienated, into his or her child's educational experience. The parent may now have the opportunity to help the child or to share what he or she knows with the child.

    1. Great idea, Allie! I think utilizing the time we already have with parents is probably the best option. Rachel

  4. In response to question 3: I do not believe that students should have the option to reject the use of technology just because they feel that they learn better without it. When that students gets a job later in life, they will most likely have to use technology. If they learn the useful ways to use technology first and master it, then they have mastered two tasks! There are times when technology may not be the most efficient tool to learn with, but a teacher might be teaching with it because it benefits the student in another way.

  5. 2. I think teachers should implement technology no matter what their comfort level is. This could start in small implements and with more training and experience, gradually excel to using technology as a staple tool in the classroom. However, avoiding it all together doesn't accomplish the goal of using technology.

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  7. Response to question 2: This is a tough question to answer. On the one hand, a teacher who ineffectively implements technology in the classroom or does so simply to meet a quota can often make the learning less effective, thus negating any possible benefit the technology could have had for students. On the other hand, as the above post says, technology isn't going anywhere. A lack of comfort in dealing with technology can no longer be seen as a quirk; it's essentially a professional deficit. I believe that teachers now have a responsibility to be familiar with technology, whereas it used to simply be a supplement. Being tech-savvy has gone from being a bonus on a resume to being an expected standard, and I can't argue with the logic of that.


  8. In response to question 2, I think that teachers should implement technology into their classroom even if they are not educated. I do believe that the teachers should gradually introduce technology tools to their students so that the teacher and the students have time to actually learn how to use the tool. Avoiding the technology completely will enable the students; they need to learn how to use it because they need to have those skills for the future. The teachers must learn how to use the technology because that is where education is headed and if they are devoted to staying current, then that is the next step.


  9. 2) I believe that teachers should implement technology despite their comfort levels. As our society becomes more technologically advanced, it is up to educators to prepare students for their futures. How could we prepare them if we are not utilizing technology tools in the classroom?

  10. 2) I believe teachers should implement technology no matter what their skill level is. However, a teacher should devote his/herself to being a life long learner, therefore they should try to learn as much as possible about technology/APPs and so on. However, even if they are not comfortable using technology, it illustrates to students that they are willing to learn and try new things. In addition, if teachers do make mistakes or need assistance, it models to students that it is acceptable to make mistakes or need assistance. Implementing technology into the classroom has multiple lessons to be learned and benefits. I couldn't imagine not using technology in the classroom!

  11. in regards to question 2, I think that it would not be beneficial to them because although they may not be familiar with it, they are taking that opportunity away from the students to learn it as well. Its ok to learn along with your students and it may be a chance for the students to help teach you something if they know more about it than you and that is ok, like we learned in the flipping the classroom lesson. The classroom without technology would be a huge disadvantage and disservice to the students.

  12. I think it would be unwise to keep technology out of the classroom of a teacher who is less experienced with technology. Technology should be something that teachers and students use to grow and learn together in partnership. Also, how will this teacher grow professionally if they refuse technology? Technology is a tool that can help enhance the classroom experience, and should not stifled due to lack of skill. The building should offer support and resources to those teachers who struggle.