Over the past week or so, I’ve kept myself busy, among other things, reading Pamela Livingstone’s 1-1 Learning – Laptop Programs that Work (link to the book on the Hawker Brownlow website) and thinking fairly carefully about how 1-1 is going to look for my school in 2012. As much as I enjoy reading this highly-detailed and frank account of the pitfalls and pinnacles of a 1-1 rollout, with each new page, alarm bells ringing in my head about a new piece of I’ll have to try, another conversation I’ll have to have with my school’s executive and another report I’ll have to put together in framing my advice.
Still, I find myself starting to answer some of the most fundamental questions around the use of technology in teaching and learning. Most importantly, I’m getting better at articulating why we should be using technology in the first place. Sounds ridiculous, I know – but unless we fully explore the WHY behind technology use and a 1-1 program, there’s every chance that such use will remain, at best, superficial, hit-and-miss and a “bag of tricks” to keep students busy.
Perhaps best of all, reading Livingstone’s work has given me a tidy arsenal of research weaponry to fire at many of the technology skeptics that point to limited correlation between the use of technology and the improvement of student outcomes. In my opinion, what’s the problem with such assertions? Well, both the technology and the outcomes – two of the most bandied-about concepts in education – are often defined as needed, by adherents to basic arguments on both sides of the debate (for instance, those for and against the use of Wikipedia for research). If we define the terms more accurately, however – say, outcomes in reference to high-stakes testing like the HSC and technology in reference to collaboration webs – well then, things start to get a little more interesting (answer: no such study has yet been done to show the effect of web-based collaboration on HSC scores). In other words, in the process of investigating the ‘why’ of technology use in the classroom, we need to be clear about the ‘what’ and the ‘how.’ It’s only in putting the three together that the research and how it is used in framing an argument becomes more meaningful.
I know there’s a million other questions in my head. For now, though, if I know why I’m doing what I’m doing (and how I’m going to do it), I’ll have a reason to turn up to work in 2011. That’s a start, isn’t it?