Walking the Narrow Line: A Response to Brown’s Critique of the Current Policy Initiative Promoting the Incorporation of ICT into our Education System.

Finally! A well thought out critical perspective on the current policy initiative which promotes the incorporation of ICT into our classrooms! Browns article, The Growth of Enterprise Pedagogy: How lCT Policy is Infected by Neo-liberalism, is a breath of fresh air. The central thesis of the paper is that the incorporation of ICT into our education system is highly problematic and that this reality is unrecognized by many education theorists. I admire the Authors rejection of the false dichotonomy of ICT being either a demon or a cure (Why are those that find themselves in a society that is saturated by the western philosophical tradition, so insistent on creating false dichotomies?) since this dichotomy is both untrue and unhelpful.  Brown brings a critical yet fair perspective to the table. He is neither a Neo-liberal, nor a Neo-conservative but claims to walk a narrow path in between both viewpoints.

There are two parts to Browns paper. The first part is devoted to the wider debate about the role of ICT in education while the second part is devoted to a critique of the current ICT policy initiative, in particular its thoughtlessness and its non education intentions. I will deal with each part separately.

In the first section Brown begins by giving his ascent to the notion that ICT provides an enormous range of pedagogical innovation opportunities. However, he also proposes that the use of technology in the classroom is highly problematic. Brown correctly contends, and it is important for our society to remember (though human society often has a powerful case of amnesia) that technological advance is a double edged sword. While it provides powerful opportunities for increases in efficiency and efficacy, it very often leaves a devastating social transformation in its wake which has many negative effects. In light of this understanding Brown is contemptuous about the lack of evaluation that has been undertaken as to the effects on teachers and students brought about by using ICT inside and outside of the classroom, while regardless of our knowledge of the consequences of our incorporation of ICT in the classroom scandalous amounts of money have been advocated to purchasing ICT resources. In light of this recognition, Brown is right in portraying the aforementioned policy initiative as a grand social experiment. It seems as if, in the minds of many modern westerners, the enlightenment myth of steady social progress through technological and scientific breakthroughs has been combined with the modern foolish notion that whatever is newer is better, leading to a thoughtless incorporation of technology into all facets of our lives without so much as a thought as to the consequences. However, the Neo-conservative attacks, thought raising some good points, are also incorrect at times. In particular Brown points out that the Neo-conservatives misrepresent their opponents by saying that the use of computers alone will not increase the efficacy of our education system. In reality the Neo-liberals make no such claim. Rather their claim is that technology can be used in certain learning contexts to improve the learning experience. Brown proposes that the vital aspect of the ICT debate is the individual, societal, economic, and environmental effects of ICT.  The most powerful insight that Brown draws out in his article is that the computer is not a neutral learning tool but an active tool which changes us as we begin to use it. This acknowledgment clashes directly with the theme of progress found through the literature of ICT education reformers, and should result in further research and debate being undertaken about the subject before ICT is further integrated into our schools.

In the second section Brown takes the thoughtless push for technological integration to town. First, Brown criticises both the new Zealand and Australian policy makers on the basis that they have uncritically accepted ICT integration because of their adoption of the tool metaphor (that ICT is simply a neutral modern tool that will help us do things more efficiently) as well as a false sense of technological determinism (that technology will inevitably be incorporated into every facet of human life so we might as well get on board now). Brown claims that policy makers are enamored with what ICT can do for us without recognizing what it will do to us, and that this is their greatest folly. Second, Brown suggests that the neo-liberal ICT movement may have several negative consequences. For example he suggests that it may lead to a celebration of technological consumption as well as destructive ecological patterns. However, he fails to legitimize this claim by giving evidence. Third, Brown proclaims that the basis of the neo-liberal drive for ICT integration is a privileging of the values of innovation, and entrepreneurialism over and above the values of stewardship and moral responsibility. However, he fails to legitimize this claim by giving evidence. Fourth, Brown suggests that the ICT movement is driven by a desire to facilitate globalization and fast capitalism and that these ends may lead to the loss of national identity. However, he fails to show why these effects of globalization are negative. Fifth, Brown advocates a transformation of teachers from their current position as policy consumers to a position of policy producers, where teachers have a greater say in education policy. I agree with Brown on this point, it is clear that teachers should have some say in what and how they teach in order to subject the policy makers to critique, leading to policy change for the benefit of  both teachers and students.

In closing I offer two remarks. First, I find it highly frustrating that little research has been done in regards to the various effects of using ICT in the classroom. Surely the mental, physical, and spiritual health of students is of primary importance in deciding upon whether or not to integrate ICT into the classroom. However, there is no mention of these crucial variables in the research literature that is cited in several of the articles that I have responded to. Instead there is a misplaced focus on whether or not the integration of ICT will increase the efficacy and efficiency of our education system. It must be understood that student and teacher health is much more important than academic achievement. Above all else I commend Brown on his recognition of the health of students being of primary importance along with his call to greater research into the effects of ICT on students. Second, Brown’s critiques of the current policy trend and the incorrect focus of research on the integration of ICT into our education system, makes it clear that we need to incorporate Bennet and Maton’s tentative methodology for the integration of ICT into our schools, where careful research is undertaken before policy is changed. In the meantime, the push to upgrade the ICT in our schools should be placed on hold.

References

Brown, M. (2005). The growth of enterprise pedagogy: How ICT policy is infected by neo-liberalism. Australian Educational Computing, 20(2), 16-22.

A look at Bate’s A Bridge too Far? Explaining Beginning Teachers’ use of ICT in Australian schools

Bates paper, A bridge too far? Explaining beginning teachers’ use of ICT in

Australian schools, discusses the findings of a recent study of how 35 first time teachers used information and communications technologies in the classroom. In this paper, Bate seeks to explain how and why ICT is used or avoided in specific educational contexts. Bates paper is well researched and draws on the former research of Mishra and Koehler which we covered in week 2. Bate suggests that there are two major factors in the how and why ICT is used in educational contexts. They are the education philosophy of the teacher and the socio-cultural setting of the school that they are working in.

Firstly, Bate suggests that the educational philosophy held by a teacher has a major impact on that teacher’s use of ICT. I could not agree more, as a hybrid social constructivist humanist who emphasises the importance of learner centred problem solving work (thought I do not accept the entire constructivist scheme in regards to epistemology and ontology), I am more likely to use ICT in a manner that facilitates problem solving activities, while also giving students an opportunity to have some fun in the learning process. In my case technology is seen as a tool which is to be used to transform student assessment, rather than as a means to communicate content. Instead of filling out a worksheet on major historical human rights documents I would much rather have students make a rap out of the major points in the documents and communicate those major points by writing a rap as a group and recording it using the ‘art of rap’ app on iTunes (Not only does musical skill increase cognitive development but it is also fun and engaging). Secondly, a schools culture is even more influential on the effective use of ICT in the classroom than the teacher. Schools can actively block the use of ICT through their structures and policies, withholding resources, training, and opportunities from teachers who would otherwise use ICT. In fact, the influence of foundational beliefs is not particular to teachers or school leaders. The actions of all participants in the process of education (parents, students, teachers and administrators, researchers, tertiary education institutions) are shaped by their fundamental beliefs about the function and purpose of education.

Bate spends a portion of his article describing the methodology of the research which he is discussing. In short beginning teachers that were fresh out of university were selected so as to ascertain how current graduates (who have been trained in the use of ICT in educational settings) integrate the use of ICT into the classroom. The research took the form of Interviews, classroom observation, and questionnaires about the use of ICT in the teacher’s classroom and their school environment.

The findings of the research can be summed up as follows. First, those who used ICT used it predominantly in student centred scenarios. Second, though all teachers were ICT competent, were trained to incorporate ICT into their pedagogical approach, and had an education philosophy that valued ICT and sought to use it to enhance the learning experience of students whenever possible, this had little impact on the actual use of ICT in their classrooms.  Third, the effective use of ICT was directly linked to the socio-cultural dynamic of the school. This was seen as the most prominent barrier to the effective use of ICT in the classroom, and I must agree, Bates research is clear on this point. Public schools with low resources, a lack of ICT infrastructure, and policy that underemphasised the need for ICT were completely deficient in ICT integration with little to no access to computers in classrooms, while Catholic and independent schools which had high resources, a well developed ICT infrastructure, and policy that openly welcomed the use of ICT in the classroom facilitated the effective use of ICT in the classroom. Fourth, in some situations there was a focus of a school on certain content knowledge outcomes (numeracy and literacy) at the expense of ICT integration. This was caused by a perception that there is no link between the correct use of ICT and meeting content knowledge outcomes. Bate is quick to point out that much of the software available to teachers is Australia is targeted at increasing numeracy and literacy, so  this is a false perception caused by ignorance .

To solve these issues Bate suggests several changes that must be made in order to facilitate the effective use of ICT in the classroom. First, he suggests an overhaul of the authoritarian teacher student relationship, in favour of the teacher acting as a facilitator with students having a high locus of control over their learning. Bate suggests that the boundless resources offered by the internet allow student autonomy in information gathering, making this approach highly applicable for the digital generation. I agree with Bate on this point, it is better that students learn to learn via problem solving than that they can accurately regurgitate  content knowledge, and it is clear that access to the internet and other ICT software (with supervision) provides the resources to make this learner centred learning more effective. Second, ICT infrastructure must be developed so that ICT can be efficiently used in the classroom. Third, teachers need to integrate ICT into the assessment process (much like Jen has used blogs to ascertain our performance). Third, much thought must be put into the integration of ICT into the classroom. It is not a simple matter and concerted effort must be put in to see that ICT is implemented effectively.

My only criticism of Bate’s paper is that the sample size of the research was too small to see the effects of the many variables that are in play in the entirety of our education system on the integration of ICT. Other than that his paper is a masterful analysis of the difficulty of integrating IT in the classroom and provides several well thought out solutions to these problems.

 

Resources

Bate, F. (2010) A bridge too far? Explaining beginning teachers’ use of ICT in Australian schools. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 26(7).

I-Phones are trying to invade the Classroom! What should we do?!!

Once again I am reflecting about an article on the use of technology in the classroom, and once again I feel the need to quell the unjustified assumption that all opportunities for change are necessarily good. This time around the writer has simply limited their scope to the use of mobile phones in the classroom, rather than the entirety of available IT.

As I proposed in my last reflection, the combination of Bennett and Maton’s tentative methodology for technological integration with Mishra and Koehler’s TPACK framework provides a comprehensive framework for the integration of technology into the classroom that provides the greatest benefit to teachers and students. While Bennett and Maton provide us with the ‘when’ of technological integration, Mishra and Koehler provide us with the ‘how’.

It should be clear now that I am not against the integration of IT into the classroom but rather the thoughtless integration of technology because it offers new opportunities for teachers. LETS NOT JUMP ON THE BANDWAGON TOO QUICKLY NOW. What if excessive mobile phone use is negatively affecting adolescents, but we do not have significant research yet to inform us? Then teachers will have been compounding the problem by encouraging mobile use in their classes.

Possible negatives of mobile phone use are as follows

– Students with mobile phones often choose to text rather than to talk about awkward or emotionally difficult situations. This has a negative effect on their ability to interact in normal social contexts by limiting experience of these interactions (Campbell, 2005).

– Mobile phones were originally designed to facilitate communication, not for education purposes and will be perceived that way by adolescents (Campbell, 2005).

– Many researchers have found that mobile phone use is problematic in schools. A New Zealand survey found that 66% of students left their phone on in classes (Campbell, 2005).

– Mobile phones disrupt the role of students in a school. School becomes about socialization and not learning. Mobile phone use undermines teacher authority and weakens their control over the classroom (Campbell, 2005).

– One positive exception to these negative effects on learning is the Brisbane “Txt Me” program. The project aimed to use mobile phone technology to support sustainable learning with disengaged 15 to 19-year-old students. This system was found to be highly motivational and supportive to these young people’s learning (Campbell, 2005).

 

 

 

 

 

Much of Justine Isard’s article Why Mobile Technology Makes Sense in the 21st Century Classroom seeks to convince the reader that mobile technology should be integrated into the education process, though the method by which this is accomplished must be rethought. To Isard’s credit, she gives plenty of justification for her assertion that the use of mobile technology in education can have a positive effect on students. For example she cites a study that found that mobile assess to school resources, lead to students spending an extra 40 minutes per week looking at school related material. Isard claims that the mobile phone allows students to be more autonomous in their learning; they allow students to do quick research, and to publish their thoughts online, increasing their audience, student interaction and leading to deeper student reflection.

Isard argues that mobile phones should we used in schools because modern students are so used to using their mobiles to solve a problem or to find some information that they are lost without them (I find this level of dependence on mobile technology to be worrying and I do not think that we should accentuate such unnecessary dependence). While I agree with Isard that there are many possible benefits that may come from allowing mobile use in classrooms, I think that serious thought must be given to the negative issues that I raised earlier.  Isard is right that by allowing mobile use in education we are opening a Pandora’s Box. But why believe her that the possible advantages outweigh the disadvantages? I fail to see how she has given the evidence to warrant such a statement.

I find Isard’s suggestion that embracing technology allows education to become ‘real’ and ‘relevant’, and that this is an advantage, to be debatable. If not used correctly technology is a constant distraction from the pressing concerns of our modern world, with its very real problems, and very difficult solutions (particularly mobile technology which is overused because of its availability). Sometimes learning is not ‘fun’ or ‘relevant’, but we still have to do it. Making every activity fun and exciting leaves students in a poor place to enter the often boring workforce, where they may not be able to use their mobile phone!

Isard’s most beneficial contribution to the discussion about when and how to integrate modern technology in classrooms, is her tips for supporting schools in harnessing technology in the education process. For example Isard suggests that schools must have strong leadership and vision, that they should support and value those with IT expertise in their faculty, that they discuss IT use in classrooms, and finally that they instate regular sustained professional development in IT for teachers.

 

As I reflect on the first three articles I see a more complete framework for technological incorporation arising that looks a little like this.

1. Bennett and Maton’s Methodology for tentative technological integration based upon significant research as to technology’s effects on students. This tells us when technology should be used in the classroom

2. The TPACK model. Shows us how technology should be incorporated into the classroom

3.  Isard’s tips show us how schools can facilitate the proper integration of IT into the classroom.  This must be based on significant research and change must be tentative.

 

For a genius critique of Isard’s article I recommend Jadon Henderson’s masterful work. It can be found at http://jadonhenderson1.wordpress.com/. He’s just so edgy and cool, like people who go to Riverview.

 

References

Isard, J. (2012) Why mobile technology makes sense in the 21st century classroom. The Professional Educator

 

Campbell, M. (2005) The Impact of the Mobile Phone on Young People’s Social Life. Retrieved from http://eprints.qut.edu.au/3492/1/3492.pdf