Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

Technology as an Agent of Change in Teacher Practice

Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

Technology as an Agent of Change in Teacher Practice

Article excerpt

R.D. Pea (1985) wrote that we can think of technology in two ways: as a set of tools that amplify or extend what we currently do (make it better, faster and stronger), or as something with the potential to radically change what we do and how we do it. For example, the technology of a better saddle allowed riders to travel further and longer, but the technology of a car completely revolutionized the way we even conceive of travel. Perhaps the argument is one of quality and not quantity. A similar argument exists in describing educational technology. Extending what we currently do as teachers only amplifies our current practices, while using technology qualitatively affords radical change in the work of teachers and the learning of students. The fact remains that many educators use technology to amplify what is currently done. Common amplifications, such as the ones that follow, are often described as excellent uses of instructional technology.

* Using a laserdisc to supplement information and images from text.

* Using the Web to find interesting facts to spice up existing curricula.

* Using online or networked grading programs.

* Using computer assisted instruction to supplement traditional instructional practices.

* Using desktop publishing to make more aesthetically pleasing class materials and handouts.

Technology can act as an agent of significant, and perhaps radical, change in teacher practice -- significantly altering the way teachers, pupils, and schools operate. We are not stating that amplification uses of technology are poor uses. We are simply stating that amplification uses do not capitalize on the full potential and power of most technology resources. Considering how technology can radically change what we do as teachers pushes our thinking to new levels and challenges us to reorganize, reinvent, and rebuild our pedagogical practices, routines, and thinking in ways that reflect the changing technological and sociological climate in which our children are learning.

Our discussion of technology as an agent of change in teacher practice is organized into three areas: changes in epistemology, changes in psychology as applied to learning, and social and relational change. Each section discusses these changes and provides examples from our own experiences, as well as others, which exemplify these new ways of thinking and acting.

Changes in Epistemology

Epistemology is a branch of philosophy associated with the nature of knowledge. This section discusses changes in the organization of subject matter and the kinds of knowledge that qualify as school-worthy.

Most teachers allow textbooks to frame their discipline as neat and clean, with boldfaced words, clear definitions, staged photographs, and overly obvious real-world examples. In science, Gerald Holton has referred to this "sterilization" of curriculum as only teaching "public science."

Technology-rich classrooms can free teachers from the bounds of textbooks -- asking both teacher and student to venture out onto the Web to find the most current, cutting-edge content available. Students can often gain access to the same kinds of information available to practicing professionals. Moving outside a textbook to see subject matter in its more "private" form is liberating, but also dangerous. It puts a great deal of pressure on both teacher and student to make sense of data, to filter extraneous information, and to focus on important subject matter ideas. Further, this practice demands that both teacher and student become good "knowledge consumers." We return to this notion of learning to be "knowledge consumers" in the next section.

A great deal of information and opportunity exist on the Web, but teachers must learn how to access it, how to use it in effective and efficient ways, and how to frame it for their students so they will find it useful and productive in their learning. …

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