Educational Technology: “From”, “About”, and/or “With”

I just started reading an “older” (1996) educational technology book called “Computers in the Classroom: Mindtools for Critical Thinking” by David H. Jonassen. Initially, Jonasson organizes the educational technology world in three parts.  Technologies that we learn “from” (drill and kill, automated tutors, etc.).  Technologies we learn “about” (the parts of a computer, how to use Photoshop, etc).  And, technologies we learn “with” (software tools that force a user to think deeply using higher order thinking skills).  The majority of the examples focus on the “with” category.

I think Jonassen’s model for organizing technologies in education is smart and will allow for easier sharing and classification of new technologies as educators explore new and innvoative solutions for students.

As I picked this book up and started reading it, I also made a connection with a discussion I was having at ACES with our Tech Council.  It was brought up that the new NAEP 2012 Tech Assessment will assess three areas.  They are:

  1. science, technology, and society
  2. technology education
  3. information and communications technology (ICT)

The concern raised in the article (and during our discussion) was that many school districts are focusing on number 3, the ICT approach, and when schools are assessed they will fail on numbers one and two.  I could argue how educational technology should be defined or what exactly should be assessed.  However, even though these topics are important, I will leave them for another day.

My concern is that even when all three of these areas are included in the public school district curriculum, the mix of instructional  types (from, about, and with) are not evenly or appropriately used.  It has been my experience that too many leaders mistake learning “from” technology as adequate “integration” or “use” of technology.  Others focus on the “about” technologies approach (which I see as valid) but often at the expense of the use of technology.  Ultimately, to be successful in all three areas, it is my belief that we must work “with” the technology to allow students to construct deeper understanding through activities that force critical thought.  “With” as opposed to activities in the “from” and “about” approaches that promote important but typically more superficial types of learning.

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Prensky’s “Backup Education” and 21st Century Curricula

Still thinking about the Marc Prensky presentation I went to at BLC 2008.  I put Marc Prensky in the same category as Newt Gingrich.  I both very much appreciate the fact that they are innovative and creative thinkers searching for new solution to existing or old problem.  I also think approx. 50% of their ideas are brilliant and 50%  are….not.   That being said, Prensky mentioned his take on curriculum and what he terms “Backup Education (click HERE for his article).  I think it is an interesting piece and I see it being used to spark a conversation among administrators, teachers, parents and students regarding what should and should not be in the “21st Century” curriculum.   Should we continue to include cursive? (No!) Should we continue to include the memorization of math facts? (Yes…for now)  Should we include handwriting?  How much content should we be teaching versus process across all levels?

If I were Superintendent I would include this article in my opening day packet.   I would be willing to bet, if nothing else it would spark a deeper conversation about curriculum and the “what” in our schools.