Friday, May 6, 2016

A Study of Global Technology Trends

It is becoming increasingly common for information and communications technology (or ICT) to be incorporated into educational organizations around the world. Adoptions of technology come in a variety of forms, such as computers, laptops, or mobiles technologies (phones or tablets). According to UNESCO’s Working Paper Series on Mobile Learning, ICTs in several countries are making education accessible for people and students that do not have access due to location, social equity, quality of education, or financial abilities (West, 2012). Mobile learning is opening up the educational possibilities. “Mobile learning is learning that occurs in or outside of a classroom or formal education setting, is not fixed to a particular time or place, and is supported by the use of a mobile device (Hylén, 2012, p. 10). In some ways, mobile learning is showing people across the world ways they can utilize their everyday devices for learning (Isaacs, 2012, p. 26). In other ways, this type of learning is allowing those in low-income or remote regions of the world to have access to education because of the accessible nature of learning and knowledge; the ability to discover new things is easy when given a phone or tablet and access to the World Wide Web.
ICTs are not only opening up opportunities for education and knowledge to reach remote areas, they are also challenging the education system’s policies, support, and methods of pedagogy for the future. For example, ConnectEd is a government program from Obama’s administration that supports infrastructure, teacher training, and private sector innovations to empower students through the use of digital content (Johnson, Adams Becker, Estrada, & Freeman, 2015, p. 24; “ConnectEd”). Trends from UNESCO’s Working Paper Series on Mobile Learning in Africa and the Middle East show that individualized ways users of mobile technology are “disrupting and transforming traditional paradigms of learning” (Isaacs, 2012, p. 20). Mobile technologies are allowing for a shift to collaboration (So, 2012, p. 17), student critical thinking (Hylén, 2012, p. 17), effective feedback (West, 2012, p. 15), blended learning, and increase of face-to-face time between the teacher and students (Johnson, et al., 2012, p. 16).   

Communication between teachers and students has also been enhanced with the use of mobile devices. The Manolo Project, which sought to help in educational mobile technology use, discovered that mobile technologies are most effective as a communication and collaboration tool, not a content delivery device (Hylén, 2012, p. 19). These open lines of communication create a positive learning environment and allow for teachers and students to have dialogue about content, rather than monologue from the teacher.
“It is the sheer power of these devices that makes them interesting, and that power lies in their ubiquity, their portability, the wide range of things that can be done with them, and their ability to access the internet nearly anywhere through the growing cellular network” (Fritschi & Wolf, 2012, p. 27). Mobile technology is an innovator proven by how it is changing the way students act and how learning is transforming (Isaacs, 2012, p. 20).
A variety of trends of effective use, improvements to consider, and lessons to learn can be seen throughout the literature in this review, such as:
  • Vision and Leadership
  • Professional Development and Support
  • Stakeholder involvement
  • Initiative/ICT evaluation
  • Infrastructure
Two trends of focus are vision and professional development. The following will look at what has worked, what needs improvement, and how current programs can move forward in regards to vision and professional development for many styles of ICT programs.
Vision and Leadership

There is an overwhelming response of vision as a positive lever for successful ICT integration. “If the school leadership has a vision for the use of technology, and can get staff to share that vision, the innovation can be carried out” (Venezky, 2001, p. 18). In Singapore, for example, goals direct the success of technology integration. To achieve the goal of guiding students through collaboration and self-directed learning, the government has helped create a “Masterplan for ICT,” which guides mobile technology use and has successfully provided quality education to many (So, 2012, p. 27). In another case in Paraguay, the vision was strongly established to support less-advantaged communities with ICT for civic developmental purposes. Leadership played a major roll in many steps of the program and helped to see that successful life-long learning was achievable for the town (Haddad, 2008c, p. 54).
According to UNESCO’s Working Paper Series on Mobile Learning in North America, the first essential for success in a mobile initiative is “visionary leadership and commitment.” (Fritschi & Wolf, 2012, p. 29). The school leader often directs successful implementation, and it is the job of the leader to “cultivate a unified vision across the school or district,” and for successful implementation “clearly identifiable curricular goals” should be expressed (Fritschi, et al., 2012, p. 29). In a University of Kentucky study, a consortium of doctoral students participated in a three-hour graduate course of technology leadership. Exploring a variety of educational leadership topics in a hybrid setting, it is evident that school leadership is essential in the development of vision as well as leading the way for technology to change how students and teachers are learning together. “The school leader, being responsible for leading, navigating, and changing schools within this modern, digital context, must thus embrace and prepare for this new learning environment” (Richardson, J.W., & Bathon, 2013, p. 1). Students made significant improvements in their vision statements after completing the course developed around National Educational Technology Standards for Administrators (Richardson, et al., 2013, p. 1).
While there are pockets of success in vision and leadership, it is very evident that a lack of the former and later is detrimental to an ICT program. Tom Daccord, Director of EdTechTeacher, identifies that the reasons why ICT programs grow stagnant after a few years is because of a lack of leadership, meaning, the faculty knowing what direction they are moving in (Daccord 2016a). Schools may have infrastructure and technology access, but in many cases, vision and leadership are lacking. In the case of LA’s 1:1 initiative, which was shut down a few years ago, Bradley Chambers, co-host of a podcast called “Out of School” puts it this way: “Deployments are only as good as the vision set forth before a Wi-Fi system or even a type of device is selected” (Chambers, 2014). This lack of support and guidance for the LA school district was damaging to one of the first iPad initiatives in the country. In a Texas DFW high school, iPads were given to teachers six months prior to students receiving iPads, which allowed for them to play with the device and get familiar with it’s platform. While a successful visionary statement was created around a learning framework by leadership and stakeholders, the expectations of the vision and of iPad use and integration into the classroom daily still remained unclear (Parker; Poullard). Overtime, however, with successful modeling from leadership and specific curriculum and hands-on professional development, the pedagogical relevancy became clear (Poullard). Administration modeling the use of technology is true application of the vision. The previously mentioned post-graduate students of the University of Kentucky found this to be true as they determined that school leaders should challenge themselves to grow, just as they ask their faculty and students, and that they should take the necessary steps to be proficient in different technologies used within their school (Richardson, J.W., & Bathon, 2013, p. 11). When there is lack of vision and leadership, it is difficult to assess progress or success of the ICT program. As Tom Daccord says in his #ettChat video series, “If you don’t know where you’re going, how do you know you’ve arrived?” (Daccord, 2016c).
For clear vision and effective technology integration, it is important to ask the question “why the technology?” What is the purpose behind using a device in the classroom? Infrastructure, device purchases, and policies are important, but often leaders can get wrapped up in those details and forget the overarching goal and vision for faculty and staff is never made clear (Daccord 2016c). Clear leadership and vision will help drive effective use of technology in the classroom (Richardson, J.W., & Bathon, 2013, p. 6). Leaders have to present black and white expectations for the staff, and continually cast the vision in the midst of anxiety as well. Allowing for teachers to process their frustrations with a program is ok, but a consistent reminder of the vision will continue to clear up the misunderstandings of the program (Speirs & Chambers, 2014). As stated in an article on by Issie Lapowsky in reference to the LA debacle, a clear and solid plan should be developed that moves education forward by leveraging technology “as a tool to improve teaching and learning for our students” (Lapowsky, 2015).
Professional Development and Support
After vision is established, providing support and development for staff is key in successful ICT programs. Like vision, this critical element of technology integration can make or break successful change, and a lack of or inadequate professional development, in some cases, can cause fear and resistance in teachers’ use of technology in the classroom (Venezky, 2001, p. 15). In the case of Athenee School in Luxembourg and Oulu school in Finland, reluctance to use technology in the classroom was not due to infrastructure or access to technology, but it was teacher resistance because of a lack of professional development (Venezky, 2001, p. 15). According to UNESCO Bankok’s study, teachers integrating e-learning modules in the Philippines had push back due to their limitations in knowing how to use the tools so often they reverted back to traditional teaching methods. In some instances, the training seemed overwhelming (Eskwela, 2009, p. 18-19) and in other cases, time was needed for collaboration and development among teachers (Johnson, Adams Becker, Estrada, & Freeman, 2015, p. 12).
Successful professional development that can support all staff can come from a successful vision or goal that is developed. Then, training for all concerned staff from “strategic, technical, and pedagogical” areas are necessary (Haddad, 2008a, p. 12). In some instances, training on how to use the device is beneficial (and completely necessary for teachers), but should not be the main focus of all professional development. In-service training often is a time for teachers to focus on how to operate the technology, but effective integration is ignored (Johnson, Adams Becker, Estrada, & Freeman, 2015, p. 24). So while there is a time and place for training on how to use the device itself, the more important development should be on pedagogy and learning. Rather than a sit-and-get approach, some programs such as “TEACH-NOW” and “Edukata” in Finland are using a hands-on modeling approach through online learning and face-to-face collaboration and practical application during training. Workshops launched by BridgeIT, the United Nations Development Program, and International Youth Foundation provided teachers resources to integrate technology into curriculum. And in some Latin American countries these training workshops even connect to teachers on a monthly basis to check in, as well as conduct surveys and school visits (Lugo & Schurmann, 2012, p. 22-23).  Opportunities to share ideas with colleagues and to complete projects together with an instructor are increasing effective learning, collaboration, and practical application (Johnson, Adams Becker, Estrada, & Freeman, 2015, p. 25).
Modeling technology during professional development is an easy way for teachers to see effective use. This approach gives teachers a chance to practice technology use and explore pedagogical changes in a safe environment, without risk of feeling that they have not succeeded. In this case, the desire to improve quality of education comes first as well, rather than just to embed technology for technology’s sake. This was the approach of a school in Israel and schools in Australia: to use technology as a lever for learning. This caused a shift in learning experiences for students as they became more autonomous in their learning and the experience became less teacher-centered and more student-centered (Venezky, 2001, p. 9). In other cases, teacher portals with online seminars, chat rooms, resources, videos and simulations helped provide support (Haddad, 2008b and 2008c, p. 32). Professional Learning Communities (PLCs), online or in person, also helped to provide an outlet for teachers to collaborate in an individualized way, instead of traditional “sit-and-get” professional development programs (Fritschi & Wolf, 2012, p. 31).
In moving forward with successful integration, “schools that plan for learning and not just plan for technology are much more successful in the long run in any tech integration initiative” (Daccord, 2016c). If professional development is specific to one or two goals, is individualized to teachers’ skills, and is interactive, educators will grow in their understanding and experience of ICT integration. The most interesting variance in the Working Paper Series in Mobile learning is the distinct difference between all other countries and North America. It is suggested, in the North America report, that leaders and schools stop using the phrase “tech initiatives,” but now shift to “educational or instructional programs” (Fritschi & Wolf, 2012, p. 9). This interesting change of words brings a new perspective to how the program would be handled in regards to development for teachers. Peer-to-peer interactions can be beneficial because pedagogical practice can change in response to these conversations (Daccord, 2016b). The environment must be conducive to meaningful experiences that lead teachers to explore new learning methods through the use of technology (Richardson, J.W., & Bathon, 2013, p. 16), such as hands-on experiences, think tanks, workshops or playgrounds where teachers have the ability to try out new technology without an agenda attached to the task. Lastly, pedagogical guidelines for teachers can be effective in helping he or she understands the goal of technology (Hylén, 2012, p. 33). This can be developed by leadership through its vision, or through common pre-existing standards such as ISTE standards. These standards, for teachers, administrators, students, and coaches, provide guidance for skills, knowledge, and approaches of digital skills (International Society for Technology in Education, 2016).
The beauty behind technology integration is that it is not really about the device. The “failure,” or lack of growth, of mobile initiatives that are occurring around the world is that these initiatives are trying to operate from the perspective of a traditional classroom; lecture by the teacher, notes by the student, and fact memorization. Now, devices should persuade educators to question what their purpose is as a teacher. Technology should move teachers to ask, “what is the role of the student now?” When technology is perceived from this perspective, the doors open to clear vision and specific goal-oriented professional development that is no longer focused on the device itself, but rather on pedagogy, teaching methods, and learning experiences. “If school leaders are unable to grasp and implement the processes necessary to lead with a digital-age vision, then professional development sessions and mentoring will continue to hamper the progress in the 21st Century school” (Richardson, J.W., & Bathon, 2013, p. 5).
“The ability of learners to think independently, exercise appropriate judgment and skepticism, and collaborate with others to make sense of their changing environment is the only reasonable aim for education. Perhaps the most profound shift is from systems of teaching and supervision of learning to systems of learning and facilitation of learning” (Haddad, 2008b, p. 56).
“At the end of the day, it is not technology that is encouraging new pedagogy and teaching methods-it is the aim of the teacher and dedication they are bringing to the classroom to make such changes” (Venezky, 2001, p. 11).

Bibliography located here.

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