Wednesday, August 17, 2016

the impact of technology vs. the impact of using technology

I have been working in the area of assessing progress of learning in complex problem-solving domains for almost 20 years now (not much progress I am embarrassed to admit), and I have also been doing evaluations of university programs, grant projects and large European networks of excellence for about 15 years. In both cases, I have come to the conclusion that it is formative assessment (of learners) and formative evaluation (of programs, projects, and products) that matters most. The primary goals are to help students progress and develop, and to help programs and projects achieve their intended goals and objectives. Secondary goals include reporting the extent of progress and success.

In addition, I have been speaking at numerous venues on emerging educational technologies and have come to adopt the mantra that it is not about the technology – it is about the learning and instruction. It is not technology that impacts learning and instruction. It is the use of technology that might impact learning and instruction – use by teachers and students, support for effective use by teachers and students, ongoing training for teachers and students in the effective use of technology … it is how a technology is used and integrated into learning activities that makes a difference (when a difference is in fact reported, which is somewhat rare).

One problem that really gets under my thin skin (and skull) is the advocacy for a particular technology as THE solution. If only every student had a laptop … or an iPad … or an iPhone … nonsense. If only every student learned to think critically, to reflect about the problem space and alternative solution approaches, to question assumptions, to monitor progress of learning … if only … then there might be some real impact on learning. Technologies can be used to support those goals (critical thinking, inquiry learning, reflection, hypothesis testing, self-regulation, etc.), but what matters are the processes associated with learning … not specific technologies. Yes, I am a founding member of the national technology geek society … guilty as charged … but I have seen silly uses and implementations of powerful technologies that resulted in no significant difference … so I am now officially a geek drop-out and advocate of the three Rs – reasoning, reflection, and reliability … I am considering founding a new society to be called R3-D3 for the three Rs plus doubting, deliberating and determining … membership is free and  open to all.