Technology as a Catalyst for Pedagogical Change
I was recently involved in a conversation regarding the amount of, and the quality of technology integration observable in Pre-K-12 education. Most of the folks included in this dialogue, including me, expressed a certain degree of dissatisfaction about the issue. We felt that given the large amounts of funds spent on hardware, software, and infrastructure, one would think there would more going on in schools than what we see now.
Now before you start jumping to conclusions or feeling attacked, please understand I am not pointing a finger in blame. I am quite aware there are other essential conditions, over and beyond access, that need to be met before we can realistically make such expectations. Even when these conditions are met, technology integration is often impeded by many barriers and obstacles. From personal experience I know that lack of time, lack of support, and, well, technology just not cooperating can easily get in the way of even the best plans and intentions. I have, however, done some thinking around one of the comments made regarding the relationship between pedagogy and technology integration. Basically the assertion was that the most significant barrier to technology integration was a teacher’s personal pedagogy not being centered on the learner or underpinned by constructivism. I fully agree with this, but it’s not like my personal opinion matters much when we have loads of research at our disposal supporting the notion that technology integration is less likely to occur in teacher-centered, behaviorist learning environments.
So, here’s the thing. I strongly believe that a teacher’s pedagogical beliefs can dramatically change over time, and that technology itself can be a catalyst for such change. Really! It’s true! I’ve seen it with my own eyes! A teacher begins to experiment with blogs or wikis, mostly out of curiosity, and slowly starts to re-think the way in which students learn and how to best design learning experiences to meet their needs. The ways in which technology is designed with a disposition toward social learning, communication, collaboration, and creative expression seems to lead folks in a new direction. The participatory nature of the web also encourages us to challenge our current practices.
I suppose my thinking mirrors the old chicken or the egg dilemma, and likely isn’t anything new. I just think it is important to recognize technology as a potential catalyst for pedagogical change and to not get sucked into assuming technology integration will not flourish in learning environments where the prevailing pedagogy is not driven by constructivist theories of learning.