As I sat back this weekend reflecting on our previous class as well as a few of the readings, a famous quote by American astronomer Carl Saga came to mind - "You have to know the past to understand the present". While Carl may not have been referring to technology when he spoke these words, I feel that they definitely ring true when compared to this week's readings as well as education technology in general. Even though technology has evolved (and will continue to evolve) over time, it's still incredibly important to listen to what the past says to help guide our decisions in the present.
Although I definitely view myself as quite adept with the integration of ed-tech within my classroom, this week's readings really left me with a lot to think about in regards to my own experience and practice in relation to educational technology. The first reading that really resonated with me was "Five Things We Need To Know About Technological Change" by Neil Postman. In this article, Postman describes five main ideas to consider when utilizing new technology, and while the article may have been written 22 years ago, so much of what is described needs to be remembered in the present.
1. "Culture Always Pays a Price for Technology"
While the notion of "paying the price" may sound a little harsh, the reality that Postman describes is that "for every advantage a new technology offers, there is always a corresponding disadvantage". When comparing that to the present, it definitely makes a lot of sense when deciding what technology educators want to use within their classrooms. For example, student BYOT (Bring Your Own Technology) definitely provides many educational opportunities to students within a classroom setting, such as alleviating the stress on shared devices within a school or providing students with more creative ways to demonstrate their learning. However, the inclusion of these devices also opens the door for possible negative consequences such as student distraction, cyberbullying, and privacy issues.
With this in mind, as educators, we need to take the time to do our "due diligence" when integrating new technologies within our classroom and ensure that the advantages of the technology outweigh the disadvantages.
2. "There Are Always Winners and Losers in Technological Change"
Two key understandings that I took from this idea is the notion that regardless of the technology, it is never distributed evenly among the population and also benefits some but may harm others. Unfortunately, this idea became glaringly obvious during the COVID19 lockdown as the size of the technological gap was exposed when schools tried to shift to a distance learning model. While many students who had the technology at home benefitted greatly from this type of learning, those who didn't have access to the devices (or internet) were initially unable to participate. Thankfully in many cases, school divisions were able to lend out technology to those students and families who needed it, but it highlighted a major problem in our society that had been swept under the rug for many years.
As an educator, I've had to do my legwork in this area to ensure the ways that I'm utilizing technology will be fair and equitable for all my students. One example of this would be my use of the Flipped Classroom when teaching Math. For this to work, I need to ensure all my students have access to technology and the internet at home, otherwise, the entire model wouldn't work as some students would be unable to learn the key concepts for the following day. While I haven't come across this situation yet, but if I do, I would need to transition back into a more traditional model of teaching Math for that school year.
A Screenshot from my Flipped Math Website:
3. "The Medium is the Message"
Postman further explains that "every technology has a philosophy which is given expression in how the technology makes people use their minds, in what it makes us do with our bodies, in how it codifies the world, in which of our senses it amplifies, in which of our emotional and intellectual tendencies it disregards". As I read this statement, I immediately drew comparisons between Postmans third idea and the SAMR Model. The notion that it's less about what technology we're using, and more about how it's being used and the benefits it can have on the individual. For example, providing students with a word document to write a response simply substitutes technology instead of a pencil and paper. However utilizing a blog that allows students to embed video, audio, and connect with others online provides them to use more of their "minds", be more creative and utilize the technology to create something that wasn't previously possible.
4. "Technology Change is Not Additive, It's Ecological"
My main takeaway from this idea is that new technology typically transforms the current climate where it is integrated. One example Postman uses is the television in America, and as he explains "It wasn't America plus the television, television gave a new colouration to everything", so essentially, everything changed as a result of this new technology. When I compared this idea to my own life, it reminded me of computers in the classroom, but more specifically the 1-1 environment that I've had the good fortune to teach in over the past five years. As a Connected Educator participant, I can firmly say that my classroom didn't just become a typical room with the addition of computers, but instead transformed into a Connected Educator Classroom. Having these readily available devices for my students has not only changed the way that I teach but also the ways that my students can demonstrate their learning.
Overall, I believe that Postman was way ahead of his time when he created these five main ideas regarding new technology. However, when we examine each of these in detail it becomes glaringly obvious that they couldn't be more relevant in today's world. As educators, we have a responsibility to review each of these ideas before making a decision to implement new technology within our classrooms.