I wanted this blog post to be a little bit different. My high school has jumped headlong into creating a makerspace, going so far as to rip out our old auto shop and buy ten 3D printers, soldering stations, and drones. My school division has essentially pulled out most of the stops (more on that later) to create a program around this idea. As such I took an hour after school to talk with the head of our program (let’s call him “Tim”) and asked him to speak to some of the challenges of running a course based on these principles.
Hello again! This week’s presentation on Assistive Technology (AT) got me thinking about one of the more challenging experiences of my teaching career. I had been teaching mathematics at the same high school for about 8 years and was feeling pretty confident in my abilities. In late August, a few days before my students arrived, I received a visit from my vice principal. The exchange went something like this:
Vice Principal: Matt, you’re getting a student who is blind in your senior math class. He is also wheelchair bound.
Me: Oh, okay, what should I know about teaching him?
Vice Principal: He has an assistant assigned to him.
In 2011 blogger Mary Beth Hertz contended there were 4 levels of technology integration in the classroom: sparse, basic, comfortable, and seamless. At the lowest level, sparse, a teacher seldom employs technology, and their students almost never use it complete tasks or assignments. This precisely describes my approach to classroom assessment. I have only briefly flirted with the prospects of employing technology in my day to day evaluations of student work, and very little has come of it. However, as this week’s presenters (Brittney, Megan, and Bret) argued there are numerous positives to using technology for assessment. These benefits include increased student engagement, timely feedback for participants, and a marked reduction in teacher workload. In light of this I decided to try one of these online assessment aids in my classroom.
The web influences people’s way of thinking, doing and being, and people influence the development of the web. The evolution of the web from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 and now Web 3.0 can be sued as a metaphor of how education should also be evolving, as a movement from Education 1.0 toward that of Education 3.0. The Web, Internet, Social Media, and the evolving, emerging technologies have created a perfect storm or convergence of resources tools, open and free information access.”
– Jackie Gerstein
It is important to keep in mind when discussing Web 3.0 that there are no versions of the web; version numbers provide the illusion of delineation which helps us conceptualize where technology has been and where it is going (Yarmosh, 2021). I tend to think of the web as a continuous series of developments ebbing and flowing with the needs and desires of its creators and users. This process has changed the web into something that its original founder, Tim Berners-Lee, could hardly have envisioned, much less predicted. The Web has changed the nature of wisdom, de-emphasizing the necessity of memorization and enhancing the collection of data, the analysis of complex problems, and the prioritization of tasks (Prensky, 2009). This has led some experts to posit that school (in its current form) isn’t necessary. In the era of an ubiquitous, AI-powered web where does this leave education?
There are a number of reasonable reactions when you’re instructor tells you that you are officially halfway through the semester. For myself, the most obvious response is abject terror (with impending due dates looming), but for others this is a time for reflection.
Is the Internet Really a Productivity Tool, or Merely an Endless Series of Distractions?
In my own academic writing I have a tendency to sit on the fence. I have been trained to look for evidence from peer reviewed sources, to carefully avoid grandiose and unverified claims, and to formulate cohesive arguments that walk my reader to a logical, and well thought out conclusion. Bearing this in mind, and with due consideration to our readings and class discussions, I have come to the following conclusion:
The Internet is slowly ruining productivity.
Or, more accurately, the Internet is slowly ruining my productivity.
We Know that “Sesame Street” encourages children to love school if school is like “Sesame Street.” Which is to say, we know that “Sesame Street” undermines what the traditional idea of schooling represents.
The Theories of Knowledge that Underpin My Teaching
Part 1: The Good (Constructivism)
Listen, we all knew this one was coming. The constructivist perspective is a darling amongst educators. Constructivists argue that students are active participants in the creation of knowledge, and do so while working through challenging and engaging tasks with their peers (Ertmer & Newby, 2013). I have always been drawn to the authenticity of constructivist tasks. They acknowledge the importance of context. This element is often sorely lacking in mathematics instruction (my primary field). I shudder every time I hear the mantra that “math is simple because there is always a correct answer.” Using statistics students in my classroom have pointed out systemic racism in policing, established connections between health outcomes and vaccination rates, and examined price fixing in retail sales. This type of learning requires a vast amount of preparation on my part as a teacher as facilitating is far more difficult for me than simply lecturing. Overall I feel that the extra effort is worth it.
The above clip (from The Simpsons episode “Bart Carny”) is illustrative of my conflicted understanding of educational technology. I have always thought of technology in terms of utility. Tools are employed to complete tasks or objectives. By this definition literally anything can be thought of as technology (if we imbue an object with purpose). Some technologies are relatively simple, like levers, while others are complex (like the computer I am typing this blog post on). However, it is not the complexity of the technology that makes it useful, but instead how it aids in the completion of one’s goals.
Therefore by my own definition educational technology is any object, device, or tool that is employed for the expressed purpose of teaching and learning.