Our experience in classrooms and the research we are conducting has pushed us to think critically with our peers about how we are engaging with technology as a tool. Objectively assessing the value a technological tool brings to the classroom can be tricky, particularly when there are so many moving parts to a classroom curriculum. Using data from studies we have conducted, concrete examples from teachers and students, and frameworks referenced in the educational literature, we will work with participants to expand their thinking about the role technology plays in their curricula and how that is evaluated. Through large group presentation, small group discussion and analysis, and larger group discussion, we will facilitate a thoughtful reflection on the ways in which hardware and software can be proactively and objectively considered. Our hope is that through the shared discussion and interaction we can help participants gain some takeaways to bring back to their classrooms and schools to ensure technology is being used to maximize value to students and educators.
Our research has come from educators working with virtual reality, games and simulations, math and literature interventions, digital arts, music, and STEM programs in robotics and coding. Additionally, we have done studies involving pre-service and in-service teachers regarding their attitudes and assessments of technology. This body of work has led us to believe that it is imperative that teachers be empowered and have the space to think critically about technologies they are being asked (or told) to use in their classrooms.
Last year at Educon, we observed an excellent presentation that started with a research group (much like ours) sharing some data they had gathered from programs and research they conducted. They then transitioned into smaller group case studies, reflections and shared tools that teachers could take with them. We felt inspired by this format and would like to do something similar!
We would open the conversation by framing the issue with existing research (both our own, and other examples from the literature) on the challenges of effectively implementing technology and assessing its value. We would like to include some of the more compelling issues we have seen in our research concerning teachers and technology, such as:
*Technology is engaging. Is engagement enough? *Confusion on the part of educators in several of our study sites about how to assess whether learning was improved as a result of a newer technology. *Teachers struggling to implement technology with limited PD available and scrambling to try to figure out how best to align a tech with curriculum. *Dealing with logistic hurdles from both school or district restrictions and the tools themselves. *Discovering and adapting to new versions, added functionalities, and changing interfaces. *Ensuring equitable access to and use of tools (even at home) without breaking budgets.
From there, we would like to ask the participants to take a couple of minutes to jot down some notes about a technology they are interested in using, one they are being asked to use, or one they are considering using. We will then ask folks to sit in different groups (based on the technology they listed) and explore a case study (pulled together from our experiences working with teachers in various classrooms) on a technology similar to one they are working with. We will ask them to analyze, through discussion with peers, the scenario considering elements such as formative/summative assessment, differentiation, curricular objectives, and classroom practices.
Then we will share some examples of frameworks for assessing the value of technology (Christensen & Knezek, 2000 and Kolb, 2017), technology implementation (Moersch, 1995), and challenges of using technology (Groff and Mouza, 2008). The goal here is to familiarize the participants with some of the types of tools that have been developed by researchers to help educators consider various aspects of their technology use with students. We will have copies of the various frameworks for participants to examine. At this point, we will facilitate a larger discussion about thoughts/concerns/ideas teachers have for technology use in their classrooms. We would also love it if we had a couple minutes at the end of the session for personal reflection so that teachers could really think about their personal technology challenges and how these frameworks and discussions may inform their thinking.