This past weekend, I was incredibly social as I attended weddings on both Friday and Saturday nights for one high school friend and one college friend. I went stag to both weddings. Of course, a handful of guests at each event knew what I did for a living, but I was forced into full meet and greet mode, socializing with so many new people in order to have a good time. In these conversations, I experienced a natural look from others to me for insight and advice when they learned I am an education technology consultant and doctoral student. This natural look happens similarly when I tell people I coach high school football. People see coaches, consultants, doctorate students, etc. as experts.
On Saturday night, I had two conversations that capture the essence of my current philosophy or approach toward emerging educational technologies. The first was at the dinner table with a man who works for a technology company focused on the restaurant industry. His company’s software contains a plethora of features to help restaurants manage their inventory, purchasing, pricing, specials, etc. It can be used individually at mom-and-pop type establishments or the product can be applied to restaurant chains across the world. Ultimately, our conversation narrowed down to this: the product is only as good as the user’s ability to use the software in their context. We both believe in the products we sell, but sometimes others do not understand the power of the product so they do not have the same belief.
In the end, it does not matter how great the product is if the user does not know how to use the amazing features. Later on at the wedding, I was introduced to the bride’s sister and her fiancé. She explained that she works for an education curriculum software company as a product manager. I expressed this view about needing to train users and her fiancé immediately commented that I totally nailed her company’s pain point. At this stage, I cannot say I am surprised to easily surmise their pain point, but these two conversations only solidified my developing philosophies toward emerging technologies. This pain point is something I experience every day at work and is something I come across frequently while researching for my doctoral studies. Technology is only as good as the person using it.
This is why some schools have learned the hard way when they purchase educational technology and not use it (Potter & Rockinson, 2012). There are countless more studies that show professional development is crucial to effective technology integration in K-12 environments (Hurr et. at. 2016; Kneen, 2015; Kempkey, 2016). Therefore, my philosophy centers on the full implementation process to ensure great integration into instruction and practice. Teachers must believe the technology in their classroom empowers them to be more effective instructors. The results from Hurr et. al. (2016) demonstrate the connection between a teacher’s belief in their technology and their actual use of it. With a belief and confidence in their technology, teachers will start using every piece of technology purchased for them.
Although my philosophy starts with a focus on training the teacher so they can actually use the technology in practice, my philosophy now begins to emphasize the purchasing decision process. Emerging technology must be evaluated for its impact on desired student outcomes. Every school and district has different needs and it is important to understand all facets of each situation to create an ideal technology solution. Education budgets are tight and technology is not cheap by any means. Schools do not have the luxury to make mistakes. There are a lot of great products out there, but there are a lot of bad products on the market as well. Schools simply cannot afford to buy technology and not use it effectively. This ineffective use happens both when they do not train their teachers and when they buy the wrong technology. I believe that the right technology coupled with sound training can dramatically improve desired outcomes in the classroom. This philosophy is how I currently approach new emerging technology.
Hur, J. W., Shannon, D., & Wolf, S. (2016). An investigation of relationships between internal and external factors affecting technology integration in classrooms. Journal of Digital Learning in Teacher Education, 32, 3, 105-114.
Kempkey, J. C. (2016). Creating a technology-enabled practice: Integrating technology through collaborative professional development (Order No. 10150937). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (1815814034).
Kneen, J. (2015). Interactive whiteboards and English teaching: A consideration of typical practice. English in Education, 49, 3, 215-232.
Potter, S. L., & Rockinson-Szapkiw, A. J. (2012). Technology integration for instructional improvement: The impact of professional development. Performance Improvement, 51, 2, 22-27.