Saturday, November 26, 2005

Technology as Ecosystem

Recently I heard Alan November and Will Richardson talk about new technology tools such as flickr, fliction, skype, furl, etc. Yes, they were enthusiastic about them. Yes, they gave an example of how each could be used in education. However, I wonder how widely accepted and used these technologies will be.

I thought of a speech I had heard about technology as part of the ecosystem of schools at the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education 16th Annual Conference. (Can't remember the speaker's name but here is an article on it) The speaker argued that technologies would be accepted by educators if they easily fit into the existing ecosytem of the classroom. Those technologies that do not seem like a natural fit or the usual way of doing things will not be accepted. If a technology disrupts the usual way of doing things, then that technology will probably not be accepted.

I think of all the technologies that we have introduced into the ecosystem of schools in the last ten years. Two technologies stand out, to me, as being the most easily accepted and commonly used in the classroom. Teachers find that PowerPoint is just like writing notes on the chalkboard except that it is electronic. It is easy for them to accept the idea of PowerPoint and to use it in the classroom (except for needing a projection device!).Using PowerPoint was an easy adoption. They simply put words on a screen and show it to the students.

The other technology that has caught on the most, in my opinion, is the use of United Streaming, a wonderful service of the PBS stations. As soon as teachers see this technology, they instantly “get it,” understand how to use it in the classroom, and begin to use it almost immediately. For teachers this is an online version of the movies or TV shows that they used to show in class. I did hear a Social Studies teacher say that he was glad that they had the whole movie instead of having to show the smaller instructional blocks of the same movie.

Just because the technology is easily accepted and is used in the classroom does not mean that it is transforming learning in the classroom. Those easily accepted technologies continue old ways of learning. We need disruptive technologies that shake up the education ecosystem.


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