“Media are mere vehicles that deliver instruction but do not influence student achievement any more than the truck that delivers our groceries causes changes in out nutrition” (Clark, 1994). Twenty years later, why does this quote still make its rounds across the world of education? I taught in a private high school in the 08-09 school year where the tuition was $15,000 a year and there were only two labs, and they could not get used by “non-tech classes”. The school didn’t even possess computer projectors in every classroom, but they fielded every sport possible, even an equestrian team. The truth, right now, technology and its use in education seems to finally gotten to a point where the knowledge and ability of users can’t keep pace with the possibilities out there nor commit the time to use them while balancing all the other requirements stacked on their plates. For example, the comments I received from my first “facilitator” for this program on discussion assignments were no more insightful or helpful than the generic comments most teachers in a k-12 setting can place on a students’ report card. If I choose to finish the program, I will not honestly think my money is well spent if those comment typify the type of feedback I get from those supposedly guiding my education. Those personal examples now aside, the underlying problems for the educational use of technology today stem from the way technology gets incorporated into a learning environment, the limitations of each individual instructor regarding technology, and the way instructors without a hardcore background in technology learn how to use it.
Computers don’t exist for their own sake. Computers are tools, tools that can create problems as easily as they solve them. If you try to train a group of customer service representatives about how to handle problematic customers over the phone using audio clips that are hard to hear or the room gets setup in such a way that learners can’t hear that well, you need to question what you’re doing. If you need or want your learners to solve problems with computer based programs, you need to incorporate technology training that allows learners to problem solve with them. Direct instruction works to build basic skills, especially when introducing learners to new programs or processes. Problem based learning, however, presents the better way to move beyond simple rote learning to where learners actually problem solve thanks to their knowledge and “it is in the process of struggling with actual problems that students learn both content and critical thinking skills” Problem Based Learning. Astronauts get full-motion simulators and zero-gravity replicating chambers. Educational trainees, spend 1 full semester in a classroom with perhaps another in observation and may get one or two technology courses mixed in with all their subject-specific requirements as well as the “core curriculum” requirements their institution of higher learning throws at them. You can instruct students on how to use excel, you can simply have them fill it in, or you can do both and then move on to analyzing the data in the cells all while dealing with your subject-specific content. The process, not the tool, dictates the speed and depth at which learners which higher-ordered thinking
However, regardless of the overall instructional strategies used they will not allow learners to move too far past the current ability level of their instructors and the experience/prejudices they bring with them. So even if “students solve the problems, teachers are coaches and facilitators”, or teachers direct learning step-by-step they inevitably will encounter a point where the instructors own skills and experience limit growth and experience. Unfortunately for learners today, education professionals of any age “have little know-how or techno-pedagogical ability with which to integrate those technologies into their teaching practice” Technology and Pedagogy. What technology needs to get more effectively incorporated into education is purposeful design and integration, a systematic approach that focuses on fundamentals and not learning programs’ intricacies. What do learners really need, “a structure to learn about technology that could be applied to future learning about any technology” Technology and Pedagogy.
Only by changing the approach we take to technology education and the way we use technology as educators will help improve the abilities of those whom we instruct. For that reason, I would personally agree with the assessment that new technologies will not change the overall educational prospects of individuals more than changing the type of truck food gets shipped in will help people improve their healthy eating habits. Technology represents another potentially powerful tool that many regard as a panacea for educational failings forgetting that without eradicating the underlying causes of academic failure, you won’t ultimately move the learner far. For instance, if a learner consistently performs poorly, or poorer than he/she should or wants to on standardized tests that person will find it difficult to fight against any emotions/self-talk that accompanies significant standardized tests like the SAT or GRE. Vice-versa, a person who never learned how to use power tools and registered negative emotions about their ability to use them will find it hard to start learning if those emotions don’t get factored into the equation of how the instructor will teach. Similar considerations must occur when trying to design and implement technology education. If you don’t build and design learning that changes the way learners experience technology in an educational setting then the type of technologies used in the process will ultimately prove unimportant.