Classroom Uses of Technology, Classified

Today, on his blog Remote Access, renowned edu-blogger Clarence Fisher has added a great post titled 9 Spaces for Technology in Classrooms.  In this post, he categorizes the possibilities of using technology in classrooms, coming up with nine different spaces of technology use in classrooms.  (See his post for description of each category).

The nine are:
– Collaboration
– Content Creation
– Research / Content Use
– Communication
– Data Collection
– Simulation
– Skill
– Tool Use
– Design / Engineering

I’ve think Clarence has categorized classroom use of technology quite concisely. This is a great list for those wishing to improve their implementation of technology within their pedagogical practice.  [Examine where you see yourself in terms of implementing technology in the classroom here: LoTi Digital-Age Framework.]
When I reflect back a couple of years, when I was teaching in a computer lab, I think that I had experienced each of the categories that he’s described.  I completely agree that there is often over-lap, and that one area often leads naturally into others.  I can think of times when my students would be working under a few of these categories at the same time. The list seems to cover the variety of uses of technology quite well, and I’m not sure if there is anything missing. If there is anything that could be added, perhaps it is an area or space in which we allow students to ‘play’ or explore the value of technological tools. This could be a space in which students themselves discover the application of such tools, and would likely then lead them into one or more of the other spaces.

Anyway, this is a great list.  It should spark some valuable discussion.  Pass it on – or join the discussion.

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The Song Remains the Same, It’s My Ear that has Changed

Although at times it feels like a lifetime ago, I quite vividly remember selecting my undergraduate degree of Business Education because of its emerging focus on technology.  Even at that time [the late 1990’s], at my young age, and the relative infancy of the Internet, I had an idea of the unbreakable connections between emerging technologies, education, and the arts.   My understanding of my role with technology and education has changed as continually as the technologies themselves have developed.   More than a decade has come and gone, vast changes have taken place, and although I still hold some of the beliefs I held at this time, much of my outlook toward educational technology has changed.

At the beginning of my career, I focused on teaching technology.  Not teaching with technology, but teaching technology.  Just as Marshal McLuhan would say that the medium is the message, I believed that  the technology was the content.  I taught keyboarding, word processing and other office applications, computer animation, programming, web design and photo editing.  I felt very successful at what I was doing.  I was very proud of my ability to engage most students, and I had very few major behavior or classroom management issues.  I particularly remember being very proud of achieving class average keyboarding speed improvements of over 30 words per minute, or enabling particular grade nines and tens to develop this skill well beyond 100 words per minute.  There were a lot of successes.  I was often able to push students to develop their technology skills, often guiding them to complete projects they would not otherwise have completed, or perhaps even thought possible.

It was sometime after trading the computer lab for the classroom and the art room that I began to question what the end purposes of education were.  I am quite sure that a large number of young people are able to keyboard quite well because of my efforts.  Many probably rely on that skill regularly at school and a work.  I know of some students who have continued to program and have long ago exceeded my understanding of computer languages.  Perhaps there are some web-designers or even an animator or two out there that found their spark in one of my classes.  I am proud of that.  At some point however, I began to ask bigger questions.

What is the purpose of education?  Is the end goal to prepare young people to enter the work force?  Is the aim to help children develop skills that help them earn a living?  I’m still quite certain that these are important goals, but now I see them as just a piece of a larger puzzle.  Is the purpose of education to teach the youth how to earn a living?  Or is it perhaps the goal to teach children how to build a life? (see Neil Postman)  As I began to ponder questions of this magnitude, it became clear to me that in the earlier part of my career, I wasn’t seeing the bigger picture.  I believed that the technology was the message.  Now, I question that notion.  Technology is not the message, but rather the medium to be used to deliver the message.  I believe much more strongly in principles of integrality, interconnectedness, and interdisciplinarity.   I think that technological literacies are still very important.  They are a very important pieces of the greater whole.  Computer skills still need to be taught as content, but perhaps in less of a separate nature, and instead, integrated into all disciplines of study.

So although ‘The Song Remains the Same’, and technological literacy is still essential, I think that I now hear the tune in a much different way; with a different ear; from a different perspective.

Its 2010… both feet in!

Its the middle of January, and I feel as though I’m just getting my feet firmly on the ground after flying into a new year, a new decade.   A new decade?  Wow, that one went quickly!  I’ve felt a little overwhelmed, disoriented even, starting back at work after the Christmas holiday break.  Before the break, I was fortunate to be working with a very capable intern, Ashley, who was teaching much of my course-load.  Needless to say, it was a bit of shock to come back to the full workload of teaching.  [Ashley, I really appreciated your help!]  My first day back to work was also, officially, my first day back to my graduate studies.  This winter semester is going to be very challenging.  I have decided to attempt to study two courses simultaneously, in addition to a full teaching load, and my other full-time life as a father and husband.   I’m not sure how this is going to work out.  Over the past year, my blog posts have been very much focused on sustainability and ESD.  This focus is not likely to change, as it seems to be the ultimate goal or purpose on any of my investigations in pedagogy.  Now I am heading down two new paths that may or may not overlap very much.  Many of my posts will be part of my reflection and studies as a part of EC&I 832 which will focus primarily on educational technologies and their links to pedagogy.  My other area of study is and independent directed study though which I am to explore several communities of artists that have had significant and shaping impact on their greater societies.  The aim is to discover common traits and characteristics that can be emulated and applied to my own pedagogical practices.  The end goal is to learn from significant communities of artists and find ways to create and inspire change in my community and society.  So, like everything else in my life, this might get a little messy.  It might get difficult to separate the two areas of study, after all and in the end, everything is related to pedagogy and making a difference with young people.  I think I have been a slightly afraid of the chaos that I have set in front of myself.  But here I go… I’m jumping in …  I’ve got my feet on the ground now.

2010 promises to be a great year.  It is a year in which eyes from around the world will be on my country, Canada, as the Olympics begin next month.  It is a year in which the world’s greatest sporting event, the FIFA World Cup, kicks off this summer in South Africa.  It is the year in which my beautiful wife and I will witness our girls turn four.  I, myself, will turn thirty-three [which has always been one of my favourite numbers].  This is the year in which I plan to develop and execute a major project in my study of curriculum and instruction, thus culminating my graduate studies.  It is a year through which I plan to develop significantly as a professional, as a father, and as a person on this planet.  This is a year in which we are sure to see several very interesting and important global and political developments as the world populations realize that they cannot rely on their governments to respond responsibly to global climate crisis’.  It is shaping up to be a very exciting year, and so it is with enthusiasm and excitement that I jump in.  Here we go!