Pushing the Envelope Overcoming Hurdles and Accelerating the Proliferation of Educational Technology
University of Houston, Downtown
Milton G. May
Running head: PUSHING THE ENVELOPE…ACCELERATING …ED TECH
Pushing the Envelope: Overcoming Hurdles and Accelerating the Proliferation of Educational Technology Milton G. May University of Houston, Downtown
Abstract This paper presents problems with educational technology as discussed in research and the press and their solutions. It will also give three examples of schools overcoming hurdles and using educational technology effectively with measurable results vis-à-vis student performance and engagement. While budgetary concerns remain a real impediment to technological proliferation across the educational spectrum, there are many free or discounted resources that are available to educational institutions. Other barriers to the advancement of educational technology include the threat of students cheating using technology and educators’ doubts about the expanded use of technology. There is also an outlier group of educators who misuse technology for inappropriate communication with students. Technology itself can be utilized to combat cheaters and cheating. Furthermore, educators must be made aware that all communication between colleagues, peers, students, administrators, and parents can be placed in the public arena if questions arise. Despite the furor over the revelations about the NSA’s data collection practices, no electronic communication in this current age is private. That said, with an educated teacher population (with regard to the proper and effective use of technology), and utilizing free and discounted tools of technology provided by technology firms like Google, Apple and Microsoft America’s community of educators can move from the back of the line to the forefront of utilizing and innovating technology. Educators in the classroom need to be able to utilize technology to teach digital natives, but they also need the skills to be able to troubleshoot technology when it does malfunction.
Pushing the Envelope: Overcoming Hurdles and Accelerating the Proliferation of Educational Technology
The specific topic of educational technology has been discussed in scholarly circles since at least the late 1990’s. Teachers’ views on technology have not changed very much in that time period, while technology has evolved at an alarming rate. Whereas almost no one had a cell phone in the early 1990’s, today millions of adults carry the latest version of either Apple’s or Samsung’s “next big thing” in their pockets or on their hip. Students in middle and elementary school today have never known a world without the iPhone, which was first released in 2007. However, like those of us who grew up with television as the major piece of educational technology, even though they have a familiarity with technology, they largely do not understand it. If they encounter a problem of any kind they are helpless to address it. Of course, most educators are experts in their content, and not in technology. But that is, at least in part, the purpose of educational technology programs. Technology in secular terms marches on at a steady pace, but educators have been resistant to educational technology for many years. In a 1998 article Greg Kearsley stated that educational technology has primarily been a distraction from what matters most, effective learning and good teaching. He does have several great points about the way in which educators receive their technology education. One of the greatest fears of educators with regard to technology (in or out of the classroom), is that students might cheat more effectively using technology. Julia Lawrence, writing for Education News refers to barriers to the adoption of online education, but even in a classroom, technology and the Internet are weaved into daily instruction. During State testing, in order to prevent cheating, students sign a cell phone/technology contract and test administrators collect any technology that students have in their possession. Budget issues are one of the biggest impediments to the proliferation of technology in classrooms. However, there are many
free resources available to educators. Most of them are available or searchable online. There are various forums through with educators can acquire or learn of tree technology. Overcoming Budget Issues The old adage that you get what you pay for applies to technology perhaps more than any other retail item. However because school districts are publicly funded entities, and principals must follow a budgeting process in order to acquire new equipment, the timeline for acquisitions of new technology is protracted. The often disjointed policies and processes with regard to technology often result in situations in which there is little or no continuity among the computers and other technology on any given campus. Such a condition can pose a problem should one attempt to utilize a Microsoft product that is only found on the newest iteration of Windows. As a side-note, as Microsoft has generally halted support for earlier versions of Windows, it is imperative simply for security that all computers in use upgrade to Windows 7 as quickly as possible. There are many resources available for free or at a discounted rate for educators, however. The main obstacle to acquiring these resources is ignorance of their existence. Free Technology for Teachers Free Technology for Teachers (freetech4teachers.com) is a blog written by Richard Byrne, a former social studies educator from Maine. He started his blog several years ago to share information about free resources that teachers can use in their classrooms. He speaks to groups of teachers all over the world, and given his nearly nine years in the profession, he speaks from an â€œin the trenchesâ€? perspective. The blog itself reaches more than 60,000 educators daily. Byrne also maintains the sites iPadApps4School.com, Android4Schools.com and PracticalEdTech.com. He is also a Google Certified Educator. Free Technology for Teachers is not the only site of its kind, but it is perhaps the most wellknown and the most widely read. Sites like DonorsChoose.org are designed somewhat like auction sites. Educators select items that they would like to utilize in their classrooms or schools, and donors
on the site can donate any amount toward teachers’ projects. If visitors to the site allow it to read their location, the site delivers a list of schools nearby with projects/requests on the site. The list includes the name of the project, the amount of dollars remaining to reach the school’s goal, and the poverty data associated with the campus. It is reminiscent of the grassroots fundraising efforts of the Democratic candidate for United States President in 2008 and 2012. During the campaign, everyday citizens could donate any amount (starting at a minimum of $5) to the efforts to get their candidate elected. Google Enterprise Google Enterprise is an arm of Google that bundles several of Google’s productivity applications into a neat package. The education package also includes some hardware options. Chromebooks for Education gives students, teachers and administrators a simple solution for intuitive, fast and easy-tomanage computing. Tablets with Google Play for Education is a powerful 1:1 tablet solution designed for learning and made for the classroom. While neither of these options is free, they are both offered at very affordable price points. Overcoming Cheating and Educator Doubt Another large barrier to the proliferation of educational technology is the fear of cheating. That fear leads to many educators harboring doubts regarding the value and/or need for expanding educational technology. There is a multiplicity of websites that have been set up for this purpose. In most cases, they charge students a fee to have a paper written for them. Cheating is an issue both on campus and online. In online courses, with tests given online, students can take advantage of their ownership of multiple devices in order to search for answers in the midst of a test, even though their laptop is “locked down”. Educational institutions have implemented strategies that utilize technology to defeat these attempts at academic dishonesty, however. Schools and universities can randomize the
questions and answers on multiple choice exams. Additionally, imposing a time restriction on multiple choice, open-ended, and essay exams will limit a student’s ability to Google every answer on an exam. Also, teachers and professors can utilize Turnitin.com to verify that students’ essays are authentic and original. There are free alternatives to Turnitin.com as well, such as Grammarly.com. However, Turnitin.com is the best-known such site. For students, avoiding plagiarism is as easy as utilizing a site like easybib.com. After inputting a few pieces of information from the source a student has used, the site generates the proper citation. The free edition offers MLA 6 and 7, as well as Chicago formatting. The paid version of the site offers automatic APA formatting for students’ works cited pages. If users create an account, they are able to save lists of citations for multiple projects. Once a list has been created, the entire list can be downloaded in multiple formats and copied into an existing document. Educate Educators Programs that offer educational technology, or master technology teacher certifications should also fold industry-standard certifications into their programs. Thus these educators, at the forefront of technology in classrooms can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with their counterparts in the corporate world. Most of the study materials designed to aid candidates in preparing for the exams for certification are free. Most certification exams require payment of a fee. Google Educator certification only costs $15.00 per exam, however. Meanwhile, Microsoft’s MCSE exams cost ten times that much, and Cisco’s CCNA certification exam costs ten times that (http://www.microsoft.com/learning/en-us/mcsecertification.aspx). It would likely require a partnership of some kind between the institution and the firms included (Microsoft and Cisco). Given the existence of education-focused foundations connected with most tech companies, this should not be a huge hurdle to overcome. If educators continuing their education in instructional technology programs graduated from those programs not only with a master’s degree in educational technology, but industry-standard certification, they would garner greater respect among their peers, as well as the information technology (IT) community at large. They
would stand as equals with others in similar fields in corporate America, and perhaps command salaries commensurate with their experience and education. Another reform or change that should begin to materialize in the very near future with regard to educational technology programs across the board regards e-books. There are some programs at smaller, nationally accredited institutions that include the e-book for the course as part of tuition. This process simplifies things for students, as there is no guess work involved in the textbook process. Both the class and the text are delivered online, making life much more convenient for students in the elearning courses. Conclusion Gearsley basically stated that educational technology is a waste of time in classrooms. Although those views were expressed nearly twenty years ago, many educators still hold the same view. Many younger teachers, first entering the profession utilize their iPads in their classrooms. They connect their smartphone to Bluetooth speakers to that children can listen to music as they work. Our use of technology should serve more than fulfilling a spot on a teacherâ€™s evaluation. The use of technology in the classroom can really enhance a lesson; it captures studentsâ€™ attention. Teachers who have been equipped with the right tools are able to seamlessly and invisibly integrate technology into every aspect of their learning community. As our students continue to receive exposure to effective use of technology, they will be better able to function in a world that depends so heavily upon it. Technology has changed the world. Our languages, customs, consumption of information, and pop culture have all been affected by this advance. It is about time that educators catch up to the rest of the world in terms of utilizing technology for the good of students.
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