Technological Dependency in Schools:
Can It Happen?
Being that this is my final blog posting I wanted to talk about technology and schools in general. At the exponential rate that technology is growing at, school administrators and teachers are going to face a situation where eventually those they teach are 100% technology dependent or close to it. Many teachers already have a love hate relationship with technology, but what happens when the time comes that they have no choice but to face their inner tech demon? Are schools capable of becoming completely technology dependent? I think the answer is yes, but it's going to take careful planning and strategizing to meet that eventuality with some form of success.
One main issue to overcome is simply the access to technology. Asides from funding, which in the future will not be much of an issue considering the economies of scale with respect to computers, one of the central issues is making computer access manageable. Access to technology is an important issue for teachers and students and so to make the best use of limited connections and equipment, schools can explore strategies for allocating computers (www.ncrel.org). There are five strategies that can be used: Computer in Labs, Mobile Computer Labs, Incremental Roll-out and School-Within-a-School. Each one offers a different solution to an array of school limitations which would make access to technology much more manageable.
Quite possibly the most important aspect of technology in schools, and one which I have recent memories of, is technical support. Without continuous technical support, technology integration in the classroom will never be satisfactorily achieved (www.ncrel.org). This is probably the biggest worry about switching to a technology dominant school set-up, the potential for total equipment failure. There is nothing that will steer teachers away from incorporating technology faster than equipment failure, complex software, and data loss. This is totally understandable because what the hell do you do if you encounter a technological problem and you have an entire class staring at you with nothing to do. That's why schools have to seriously look at their tech infrastructure and make any repairs and or upgrades prior to even contemplating full blown technological dependency. This is going to go hand-in-hand with just-in-time support. Teachers need immediate help when the technology fails, "if technical problems arise frequently and teachers have to wait hours, days, or weeks to get them resolved, they will abandon their efforts to incorporate technology" (www.ncrel.org). That's why you have to have the tech staff available to respond on a moments notice. That way, there are no delays to getting the technology back up and running and teachers, as well as students, do not lose their faith, nor their minds.
The use of technology in class has to provide meaningful and engaged learning. If it doesn't then what's the point? This is going to involve the teacher re-envisioning their pedagogical approach in a way that improves teaching and learning. There are several tools that school administrators and teachers can use to map effective use of technology so that students are challenged to new levels of thinking such as: Learning With Technology Profile Tool, and National Educational Technology Standards. Both offer guidelines for implementing technology in schools as well as planning for technology-based activities in various grade levels (www.ncrel.org).
There is one last thing that has to be taken into consideration before schools can become technology dependent and this is the role of the teacher. Teachers have for centuries planned lesson plans and lectured their students. In order to gauge their grasp on relevant topics, they have quizzed and tested their student's in order to quantify their level of retention. With technology, the teachers role goes from lecturer to facilitator. At first this might create obstacles for the complete integration of technology within schools, mainly because teachers have always held authority over the class and this would seem to take some of that authority away. However, as students become more self-directed, teachers who are not accustomed to acting as facilitators or coaches may not understand how technology can be used as part of activities that are not teacher-related (www.ncrel.org). This situation may be an excellent opportunity for the teacher not only to learn from the student but also to model being an information seeker, lifelong learner, and risk taker (www.ncrel.org).
So there is no doubt that a school can become completely technology dependent but it is going to take careful thinking, teacher participation and a re-envisioning of how students are taught. This could be a perfect scenario to utilize an Appreciative Inquiry process in order to map out all the concerns, fears, and potential pitfalls that a complete technological dependency move is bound to create, in order to create an effective strategy that will work.