Current Use of ICT
Is the potential of educational technology being maximized? Not at all. In spite of the numerous benefits offered by educational technology, schools have not been using computers to their full, transformational potential (Blin, 2008). Examining current use of educational technology will highlight a blatant misuse of a potentially powerful tool. In addition, exploring the current ways in which teachers currently utilize ICT in their teaching practice will reveal the true origin of the problem.
Replicating Traditional Teaching
By and large, teachers are using technology to replicate traditional styles of teaching. In a study exploring the classroom use of tablets, Ditzler, Hong and Strudler (2016) found that applications were limited, and mainly geared towards productivity (such as calendar, and word processing). Similar findings were highlighted in a survey of over 6,000 high school Quebec students (Karsenti & Fievez, 2013). They noticed tablets remained unused for most of the classroom time. When they were used, it was overwhelmingly to support traditional teaching tasks, such as reading a digital textbook, or to employ a word processing or dictionary App to take notes on class lectures (Karsenti & Fievez, 2013). The situation is much the same in higher education. Blin (2008) found that professors mainly used the school’s online portal to upload materials that would be presented during face-to-face interactions.
Naturally, teachers play a deciding role in whether or not technology will have a place in the classroom, and what that place will be (Schnellert & Keengwe, 2012; Thomas, 2007, 2008; Wenglinsky, 2005; Wiburg, 2003). Overwhelmingly, using technology does not change one’s teaching methods. Typically, teachers who use technology in their teaching practices use it to imitate their usual teaching styles (Ertmer, 2005). This has been proven many times over; teachers with traditional philosophies are likely to use technology to support their conventional methods (Ertmer, 2005), and teachers who already use student-centered practices are likely to continue doing so when implementing technology (Matzen & Edmunds, 2007). Therein lies the problem: if instructional practices remain the same, so will learning, no matter which tool is used to deliver information (Clark & Mayer, 2011).
Transforming through Constructivist Applications
As all schools have access to some level of educational technology (Means, 2010), we might have expected to see a transformation in pedagogical execution. However, technology is not transformative by its mere presence, but by the manner in which it is implemented. Meaning, it is not the mere physical presence of technology that will transform education, but rather, the ways in which they will be implemented into teaching practices. If thoughtfully and prudently implemented into teachers’ practices, ICT can work to augment student agency and transform traditional roles of both student and teacher.
The power of transformative ICT use is unlocked when coupled with constructivist, student-centered learning situations (Honey & Moeller, 1990). That is, teachers who align themselves with Piaget’s learning theory, that children learn by constructing knowledge based on their own experiences and interactions, will see greater results. Researchers have also identified that teachers who favour constructivism, focus on higher level thinking, and their students tend to create media, as opposed to simply consuming it (Dolan, 2016; Ertmer, 2005; Hickey, Moore, & Pellegrino, 2001; Jonassen, 1996).
Leont’ev’s (1978) Activity Theory (AT) provides a framework by which we can structure and categorize the different usages of digital technologies. According to this theory, activities are a series of actions that use material objects to work towards a goal. The outcome of these action will vary, depending on what the actions are, and be categorized as either tool, tutor, resource, or environment.
In Stevenson’s (2008) application of AT employing educational technology, he classified 60 ICT classroom activities using this framework. The two most popular categories were those that supported traditional teaching; 89% of observed activities had students consuming media (Stevenson, 2008), a very passive form of education, if that at all. These types of activities do nothing to alter the current roles of teachers of students, but rather, only preserve traditional teaching methods.
The other two categories of AT represented a much less popular type of ICT use. Accounting for only 8% of the activities, these types of endeavours lent themselves to a constructivist, student-centered philosophy, wherein students were actively participating in their education creating and evaluating media.
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