Information Technology in Education

Empowering Classrooms for the
New Tech Knowledge Ease Generation

Technology suggests wildly different things depending on the context in which the word is used. In the strictest sense I understand it to mean a new invention that solves a problem or improves upon an old invention.

While the word, technology, is often used to imply only modern inventions, as in "state -of-the-art technology," it can refer to any device or systematic technique from any time period. The invention is meant to provide "an improvement in the quality of life." So technology would include fire, the wheel and the telegraph, as well as radio, television and Twitter.

What Difference
does Technology Make?

What qualifies as "an improvement" is highly debatable. More than a few supposed advances have -- over time -- created more problems than they solved. It's interesting to note that different ethnic, religious and social cultures often hold vastly different views of the same technologies. Culture is shaped by technology as much as technology is shaped by culture.

Major new scientific or medical advances require a social and cultural change of perspective. Technology can make a big difference if it conflicts with deeply held, personal beliefs or customs. Such advances often prompt moral and ethical questions, as well as perhaps, irrational fear. Bold, new, changes may have . . . unforeseen consequences.

The Frankenstein Effect

The dark, irrational, nightmarish side to the concept of technology might be called, the Frankenstein Effect. Futuristic novels and sci-fi films from the 1950's inevitably detail the horror of technology gone terribly, terribly wrong. But these dreadful dreams of techno terror aren't a modern phenomenon. Fateful warnings about technology are as old as technology itself. One famous legend dates back to the ancient tale of a man-made monster named, Golem.

With that caution in mind . . . technology is an invention with a positive intention. It's "an amalgamation of products, systems, and processes focused on enhancing the quality of life." Chiappetta and Koballa describe technology as "tools invented by humankind to make work easier and life better."

What Has Made the
Biggest Difference?

The PC and the Web obviously signaled a paradigm shift into a new age. But of the previous techno-wonders of modern civilization, the two that strike me as having the greatest impact are the printing press, and the discovery of electromagnetism. Without those two technologies developing when and how they did, the world as we know it, would probably not exist.

The Difference in
School Technologies

School technologies are tools for such things as writing, measuring, drawing, designing and so forth. Education technologies would include microscopes, computer lab equipment, video monitors, digital devices and video games. Education technology is also a box of crayons or a good game. It's any learning tool that promotes the four types of thinking: Declarative, Procedural, Schematic or Strategic. Learning from by and about new technologies is vital to students who are to become responsive and responsible lifelong learners in the information age.

 My vote for the best old school technological winner is the mass-produced, plain, yellow No. 2 pencil. It influenced how young people actually used words and graphics to relate in their everyday lives.

Considering the world wide wealth of research information available at the touch of a screen, PC tablets are clearly what will influence how all public school students will have to learn in the future.


Technological Pedagogical

What is TPCK?
TPCK is academic acronymia for "Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge."  It can be thought of as the Teaching Professional's Combined Knowledges. TPCK involves three knowledge bases: Subject Matter Content, Pedagogy, and Technology.
It was once generally assumed that to be effective in the classroom, an instructor simply needed to know the subject matter content of the course to be taught.
Then it became clear that mere mastery of content wasn't enough. An effective instructor also required an understanding of pedagogy -- which is the study of how content is taught and learned. Together, the two knowledge bases are called,  Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK) *.
 Now, with the dawn of the Information Age, it is increasingly understood that to maximize learning outcomes, teachers need to remain technologically relevant. That is to say, effective educators must understand the use of educational tools to teach content and subject matter in a way that the technology places concepts in a form that is understandable to learners.

What is Urban TPCK?

An Urban Techno-Pedagogy centers on the combined concepts underpinning TPCK -- as they relate to teaching in the culturally and linguistically diverse urban classroom.

In, Those Who Understand: Knowledge Growth in Teaching, Lee S. Shulman contends that effective teachers need to rely on an integrated knowledge base -- one that is an integration of multiple domains of knowledge (knowledge about subject matter, learners, pedagogy, curriculum, and schools) -- if they are to be prepared to translate the content in ways that students are able to grasp. Shulman referred to the knowledge that teachers need as Pedagogical Content Knowledge, or PCK.


Perspectives on Learning

Behaviorist and Cognitive Perspectives

Educational psychologists generally agree that learning happens "when experience causes a relatively permanent change in an individual's knowledge or behavior" ( Woolfolk- Hoy, 2004, p. 198).

Behaviorists assert that behavior is shaped through reinforcement, practice and drilling for the desired behavior. They consider learning to be sequential and hierarchical.

Cognitive field psychologists view learning as "transforming significant understandings we already have, rather than simple acquisitions written on blank slates" (Greeno, Collins, & Resnick, 1996, p. 18). These researchers found that students are engaged "in the process of expanding their personal conceptions about data-bases, sorting in databases, and data types while establishing new connections among their schemas" (Niess, Kajder & Lee, p43).

In the simplest terms, behaviorists look to external stimuli and outward behavior. Cognitive psychologists look inward at the mental process and at changes in knowledge.

From the behaviorists to the cognitive psychologists and beyond to the constructivists -- views about student learning have shifted from passive to active student engagement.


In the objectivist view, knowledge exists outside of individuals and can be transferred from teachers to students. Students learn what they hear and what they read.
The term, constructivism, refers to the idea that learners construct knowledge for themselves. Each learner individually (and socially) constructs meaning as he or she learns. Constructing meaning is learning; there is no other kind. The dramatic consequences of this view are twofold; (1) One must focus on the learner in thinking about learning -- not on the subject/lesson to be taught): (2) There is no knowledge independent of the meaning attributed to experience (constructed) by the learner, or community of learners.

As a philosophy of learning, constructivism can be traced to the work of eighteenth century philosopher, Giambattista Vico, who maintained that humans can understand only what they have themselves constructed. A great many philosophers and educationalists have worked with these ideas, among them, Jean Piaget and John Dewey.


Some guiding principles of constructivist thinking 
for educators to consider -- from the Institute of Inquiry.

1. Learning is an active process in which the learner uses sensory input and constructs meaning out of it. Learning is not the passive acceptance of knowledge which exists 'out there.' Learning involves the learner engaging with the world. Dewey described the hands-on experiencing of the active learner.

2. People learn to learn as they learn. Learning consists both of constructing meaning and constructing systems of meaning. For example, if we learn the chronology of dates of a series of historical events, we are simultaneously learning the meaning of a chronology.

3. The crucial action of constructing meaning is mental. It happens in the mind. While physical actions and hands-on experience is necessary for learning, it is not sufficient. Educators must provide activities which engage the mind as well as the hands. Dewey called this reflective activity.

4. Learning involves language. The language we use influences learning. On the empirical level, researchers have noted that people talk to themselves as they learn. On a more general level, there is a collection of arguments, presented most forcefully by Vigotsky, that language and learning are inextricably intertwined.

5. Learning is a social activity. Our learning is intimately associated with our connection with other human beings -- our teachers, our peers, our family as well as casual acquaintances A progressive education recognizes the social aspect of learning and uses conversation, interaction with others, and the application of knowledge as an integral aspect of learning.

6. Learning is contextual. We do not learn facts and theories through an isolated, abstract "mind" separate from the rest of our lives. We learn in relationship to what else we know, what we believe -- our prejudices and our fears.

7. One needs knowledge to learn. It is not possible to assimilate new knowledge without having some structure developed from previous knowledge to build on.  The more we know, the more we can learn. Therefore any effort to teach must be connected to the state of the learner -- it must provide a path into the subject for the learner based on that learner's prior knowledge.

8. It takes time to learn. Learning is not instantaneous.

How Behaviorist and Cognitive Psychologists'
Views of Learning Influence Today's Classroom

Educational psychologists consider that the process of learning happens "when experience causes a relatively permanent change in an individual's knowledge or behavior" (Woolfolk- Hoy,2004,p.198).

Behaviorists see the process of learning as an external and observable behavior. Also, Behaviorists emphasize that learning is "shaped and strengthened through reinforcement or practice" (Niess, 2008,p.41). Cognitive psychologists point out that a change in knowledge is transformation. For this reason they believe that learning is an internal mental process. On the contrary, Behaviorists see learning as both sequential and hierarchical.

Moreover, both views of learning influence teaching and learning today in a major way. These views have helped and guided educators to develop effective teaching strategies and to reach many different styles of learners.

The combined effect of the Behaviorism and social learning theory, with Piaget's cognitive development theory, along with many others (psychoanalytic, information processing, Vygotsky's sociocultural, etc) is the evolution of the Dynamic Systems Perspective.

In Infants and Children (2008) Laura Berk says about the dynamic systems theory "the child's mind, body, and physical and social worlds form an integrated system that guides mastery of new skills." This perspective, which draws heavily from the behaviorism theory and the cognitive development theory, is now one of the primary tools that educators use in analyzing and facilitating the learning of children.

Knowing reality means constructing systems of transformations
that correspond, more or less adequately, to reality" 
-- Jean Piaget


Podcasting Possibilities

Long before we had the World Wide Web -- back when most people would've guessed YouTube was some sort of plumbing fixture -- artist Andy Warhol predicted . . . "In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes." Considering the enormous popularity of podcasts, Google Blogger, Twitter and other personal communication systems, Warhol's vision was amazingly prophetic. As educational technologies, the practicality of these cyber systems actually outweighs their popularity. Once connected to the classroom, the Internet's new technologies become dynamic tools for productivity, research and communication -- as well as agents for personal expression and self-empowerment.

Podcasting is nothing short of a revolution in the speech classroom. Students are able to record and revise speeches using both audio and video. The web now makes using complex multimedia systems that interact with the world as simple and inexpensive as using a telephone. Gone are the olden days (the 1990s!) when "media" referred to large broadcasting companies like ABC, CBS and NBC. Now, with a digital camera and an Internet connection, literally anybody can make the headlines . . . if only for a little while!

The ability to launch a personal broadcast through a world-wide multimedia system has completely changed the way we think about "media" and the way speech students interact with it.

As research technology, podcasting can be an invaluable tool for learning and teaching high school speech. Through podcasting, students can efficiently gather, evaluate, and process information. Beyond the treasure trove of e-books and historical texts made instantly available, podcasting connects students to a global library of audio and visual data. Through skill manipulation of RSS, pertinent research information will actually find its way to the student!

Video blogging -- vodcasting -- is a phenomenal communications tool for high school speech students. Inexpensive and easily manipulated video gives the average ordinary speech student the opportunity to shine with communication equipment that was once reserved for wealthy media stars. Vodcasting's other great feature is its easily stored and easily transportable format.

Learners, excited by their technological accomplishments have a way to show off their school work and communicate their discoveries to the world. Through the use of new web technologies to research and produce material, students are now able to finish a project and pin it up on every refrigerator door in the country! So, Andy Warhol was right when he said we'd all be famous for fifteen minutes. However -- it seems podcasts and similar new personal communication systems have clarified that it will be the same "15 minutes" for everybody!


Speaking of the Internet

There are any number of ways the Internet can be used as an educational tool for high school students. Among other things, the internet is a research tool, a productivity tool and a powerful communications tool. Thinking specifically about the subject area of Speech, the internet provides an amazing multitude of resources in just those three areas.

The internet is a multifaceted research tool. Students can use the Net to locate ideas for speech topics. They can search online databases for quality speech content. With the Internet, speech students also have access to resources such as "Debate pedia" -- a site designed to encourage thoughtful, honest debate on current affairs.

As a productivity tool, the internet is wide-ranging. Students have the ability to produce speeches in different formats including the use of multimedia. Speech students can use resources that can aid in composition such as "the Easy Essay." Through a series of questions, the "Easy Essay" site guides learners through the process of creating various types of compositions.

The internet is a versatile communications tool. Students can find examples of well-written speeches to compare and contrast to their own. Work can be filed and stored on the Net, allowing learners to easily collaborate and interact with peers. Students have access to communication resources such as "My Own Journal," a free personal database for writing projects, and of course . . . the talking web tool, "I Speech."

Considering the myriad of ways the Internet could also be utilized for cultural study and problem solving, the possibilities of incorporating Net technology into a high school speech class are virtually endless!

NOTE: This reflection was written using the composition generator at "Easy Essay."


Spread the Word

Spreadsheets are a powerful learning tool for mathematics. But as Niess, Lee and Kajder point out, the technology is a "cognitive tool that can enhance student learning of content material in many different content areas." The technology can be enormously useful in communication arts. This investigation of spreadsheets includes a brief overview, a look at technology standards and potential applications in a high school speech class.

In Guiding Learning with Technology, the spreadsheet is defined as is "a tool for collecting, displaying, and analyzing information." The text goes on to say that as students work through different problems, "they begin to recognize that spreadsheets are more than mathematical tools." Students start to see spreadsheet software as a technology to explore social, ethical, and human issues. Understood in this way, the spreadsheet is a multifaceted communication arts tool. Spreadsheet software is a productivity tool, a problem-solving tool and a communication tool as well.

Working with a spreadsheet increases productivity because the speed of making complex calculations saves time. The ripple effect of a spreadsheet allows the user to change one bit of data and instantly see the recalculated results.

Solving problems and making sound decisions are vital in the area of speech - communications. Through the use of spreadsheets, students are able to see patterns and relationships between concepts involved within the larger subject of their learning task. Decision-making is aided by the ability to analyze and interpret information through the manipulation of data on the fly.

Spreadsheets communicate information through various types of charts and graphs. As a communications tool, spreadsheet software can obviously be used to create visual aids for speeches and presentations.

Spreadsheets could be used in any number of ways for high school speech class. One way is to use the tool to develop persuasive arguments on the pro or con side of a debate topic. Spreadsheets allow a student to ask "What if?"  Spreadsheets are also tools for analyzing and interpreting speeches.


Teaching Strategies -- Pop Quiz!

1. Today's diverse, urban classroom requires diverse, techno-infused teaching strategies.


2. These rapid changes in technology -- change what we know about learners.


3. There are four, general instructional strategies.


4. Five specific learning "Achievement Targets" have been identified.


5. The 'Lab Approach' makes it dificult to accurately assess student learning.


6. "Hope" is not a strategy.



Learning How Technology Uses You

An Associated Press article reports that the "social media blackout" at a small Pennsylvania college won over skeptics, with many students reporting better classroom concentration and less stress during the weeklong experiment.

Less stress.

Only twenty-three percent of students approved before the blackout which temporarily blocked sites like Twitter and Facebook on campus. Forty-two percent of students ended up supporting the exercise. Provost Eric Darr told the AP,"Even though people initially were angry -- even the most cranky student had to admit some good came out of it."

The lesson, once again, seems to be: we will either learn to properly use technology or we will be used by it.


Net Gains

What is Blogging?
Blogging is online journal writing. The word is a combination of "web" and "log."

What is Blogger?
Blogger.com is one of several popular websites that facilitate blogging.

What is FeedBurner?

FeedBurner -- now part of the Google domain -- is about "measuring, managing, and monetizing" blogs and other syndicated content. It's a single application in which a blog can be distributed in real-time to a number of endpoints.

Three Excellent Education Blogs

David Warlick says his site is "a diary of my greater mind, my experiences, observations, and reflections, mixed in with the responses of an eclectic community of readers — who are often the smarter part of me." A wide variety of teaching topics are covered. The archives date back to 2007 and include such titles as 10 Ways to Promote Learning Lifestyle in Your School, A New Kind of Math and Technology & Teaching.

This is a blog by audiobook publisher, Recorded Books. There are informative articles and lots of links to multimedia. It features plenty of free downloads for teachers, including audio book excerpts and lesson plans.

Julia Osteen, a teacher from Norcross, GA. is the blogger. She is a Junior High language arts teacher and a Technology Instructional Lead Teacher at Greater Atlanta Christian School. Reflections from the Trenches is filled with articles about integrating technology into the classroom. The writing is excellent and the ideas and observations are superb.

Power Up with these
Technology Resource Assistance Links

  • TechGrants is a program of the TechFoundation that provides nonprofits with access to capital for technology needs.

  • Computers For Learning transfers excess government computer equipment to schools and educational organizations. Federal agencies use the CFL website to distribute computers at no cost to recipients.

  • The Computer Recycling Center recycles used computers and donates them to public schools, teachers, and community nonprofits through their Computers and Education program.

  • The Community Technology Empowerment Project bridges the “digital divide” for new Immigrants and low-income communities in Minneapolis and St. Paul. AmeriCorps members help youth and adults use technology to better access social, civic, educational and economic opportunities.