Is New Ed Tech Worth It?

For this week’s readings, I saw a common theme explored: Is educational technology worth implementing in a new educational setting, and if it is worth it, what are the expected and tangible benefits?

To begin, a chapter by Hooper and Rieber (1995) explored the adoption of technology in a classroom setting, discussing 5 steps for it to be an effective use of technology. Granted, this analysis was done in the mid-90s, so there wasn’t really an Internet to speak of–at least not the way we see it now. However, they break down the 5 steps rather well; it was especially helpful to compare the 5 steps in full actualization of new tech involvement vs. traditional implementation. The 5 steps are: Familiarization, Utilization, Integration (which comprises the traditional view), Reorientation, and Evolution. The first two steps are critical of course, and it speaks to the discussion we had in class a couple of weeks ago that includes professional development courses for teachers and continuing education workshops for higher education instructors. The first two, in my mind, are the roadblocks in a large education system. Sure, if the technology is small and consumer-ready, the teacher might have the means to begin the process; however, if it is large and cumbersome, then familiarization and utilization will be quite low. The last two steps/phases (Reorientation & Evolution) require more than just implementation in the course (the 3rd step)–it requires a change in thinking within the teacher. A very tall order. In addition to this, the implementation needs to lead to structure and process change (Evolution) in order to remain relevant.

In a similar vein, Breslow (2007) discusses several studies specifically at MIT and organized them into 3 conclusions: (1) successful educational technologies met a specific educational need previously unmet by traditional methods, (2) too much or ineffective technologies can be detrimental to learning, & (3) there are important relationships between technologies and their respective learning environments in they exist. I’d like to focus on the first 2 conclusions. First, I see parallels with our term project and the idea that specific challenges should be met with as specific a technology as possible. There really is no benefit to broad strokes solutions, since the introduced technology might not specifically address an issue. That is not to say there isn’t myriad technological solutions for a given educational challenge, but it does help to use a scalpel instead of a cleaver in as many situations as possible. If the cleaver is used, then this could lead to the second conclusion by Breslow, that of ineffective or detrimental technology in the classroom. If the tech isn’t helping, it is obviously misused, misunderstood, or misplaced. In this instance, a more tech-free evolution should take its place.

The message I wish to convey is that technology can be good, but it should be thoughtfully used to solve an educational challenge, whether it be K-12 or higher education. We all have our qualms about traditional education and the failure of lecturing. So there needs to be tangible benefits for use of the technology (such as in Mabry & Snow, 2006) for the implementation to be worth it.

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