Saturday, June 20, 2009

What a good Technology in Education program should include

I have just completed another term at National-Louis University (NLU), in their Technology in Education (TIE) program. As part of the coursework, I also finally finished Todd Oppenheimer's Flickering Mind, and it got me to thinking about what a good Technology in Education program should have (and what I think is missing from the NLU program).

First, a good technology in education program needs a solid history (and maybe philosophy or ethics) of technology class. The class would delve into the relationship of humans to their technology, the relationship of technology to social change, technology as extensions of the human body and what that has meant for social development, and some good discussion of the dialectic between technology and mind or ideas (ideas shape technology, technology shapes ideas). Some exploration of the specific relationship between capitalism and technology would be good. Students could prepare reports on the development of specific technologies and their impact. Students should somewhere in the program be exposed to the idea of "appropriate technology", this might be the class to introduce it. Readings might include Mumford, Marx, McLuhan, maybe E. F. Schumacher, also Steve Talbott. The main hoped-for outcome of the class would be for students to understand that technology is developed within a social and historical context, and affects a society in unpredictable and not always desirable ways. The class should discuss "Ten Principles for a New Literacy of Technology" and evaluate the NETS standards. The NETS standards are curiously weak on these topics.

Second, a good technology in education program should have a serious course on the history of technology in education. This class would parallel a history of education, especially in the United States, but with a special focus on technology in the classroom. Obvious authors to read would include Larry Cuban and Todd Oppenheimer. Tech Tonic might fit here also. This class would provide an important context for technology teachers to understand their role in education. The development of the NETS standards could be explored here.

Third, while educational psychology is included in the current TIE curriculum, it should have a special focus on the role of technology in learning. This would include an exploration of concepts of child development, and their implications for technology in the classroom. The fundamental question to address would be what kinds of technologies are appropriate in the classroom, and at what age. The NLU "Cognition and Instruction" course used the National Academy Press book How People Learn, which is okay, but for some reason the course skipped Chapter 9, "Technology to Support Learning" that specifically addressed research findings (which, in the context education research, might be an oxymoron) relating to technology and learning. A Jane Healey reading would be helpful here; also maybe Fool's Gold.

I'm not sure where this should go, but I think serious personal reflection on how one thinks about technology should take place somewhere. Maybe in the context of one of the two classes above. I had to develop a "personal philosophy of education" for a history and philosophy of education class which was a useful exercise; I'm thinking here of a "personal philosophy of technology in education". Or even better, a perspective written at the start of the program, and then at the end of the program. The end-of-program perspective would be an important portfolio artifact. (As a principal, I would want to know a prospective technology teacher's view of technology in education.

I am generally disappointed in the NLU Program, including its conception and its delivery. I will skip the analysis, but offer this possible enhancement. I think programs like this would be more effective if they were organized more like a "work-study" program, and the coursework more tightly bound to our work lives. Assignments in the course work would be actual projects that we would be expected to carry out at our respective school, not in addition to everything else we do, but as part of it. So the school work would also be work work. (As it is now, homework assignments are on top of an extra-heavy workload, and rarely tie in with what is happening at school.) This would require some tighter coordination between our program sponsor, the Office of Academic Enhancement (OAE), the NLU TIE program, the principals at our respective schools, and the students (and we would then really become co-creators of our education). The principals especially would need to be on board, and transcend their perception of their technology teachers as OAE-subsidized tech support personnel (aka electronic janitor). I think there are a lot of possibilities here. Our schools would become more like lab schools for discovering best practices; and our classes at NLU become more like a collaborative forum for evaluating results.


1 comment:

jd said...

I should have noted that Tech Tonic has a good chapter on technology literacy guidelines for teachers. (See link in posting above)