EC&I 833: Educational Technology-A Roadmap that Integrates Meaningful Learning Opportunities

Educational technology may sound like a 21st Century term where one pictures students with tablets putting together a Prezi, integrating Flip Grids and editing the final product asynchronously in Google Classroom.  It certainly is all those things, but I contend Educational Technology is not only the “modern” tech tools and apps, it is all tools that aid student learning and engagement with the material.  In my opinion, Educational Technology is utilizing tools that gives space for learning of content, that gives opportunity for thinking to evolve and to find ways to better understand the topic at hand through interaction with peers, teachers and with a larger learning community.  As an educator, I have been tasked with teaching content, but also being mindful of the ever-changing world and the rapidly accessible information to all major stakeholders- students, teachers, families and communities.  I really resonated with Siemen’s thoughts about connectivism being driven by the realization that “decisions are based on rapidly altering foundations. New information is continually being acquired. The ability to draw distinctions between important and unimportant information is vital. The ability to recognize when new information alters the landscape based on decisions made yesterday is also critical” (Siemens, 2005, pg. 5).  Thus, my definition of Educational technology is discerning how all types of technology (both 21st and historical ed tech) that can aid student learning, enhance student voice, engage all types of learners using a variety of mediums that gives space to interact with constantly changing landscape in both technology and the world in which we live.  Educational Technology gives space for meaningful connections, innovation and creativity to meet the needs of the students and the curriculum while empowering students understanding of how the content is reflected in day-to-day life.

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In the article A short history of educational technology I believe that each technology listed is beneficial to student learning as it offers great opportunity for diverse instructional and assessment strategies.  As a Catholic Studies teacher with Regina Catholic School Division, I have the great opportunity to teach diverse World Religions in my spaces.  I often use Broadcasting and video in my classrooms to center our lessons, to listen to communities who practice and interact with a particular faith.  That technology is critical to expanding my students world views as we are not relying on books or lectures, we are leaning into lived experiences and expanding our perspectives on the topic.  Furthermore, the technologies listed also reiterate that we as humans decide what is considered “important” or “useful” technology. I couldn’t help but think that the more historical examples, such as Oral Storytelling, could be considered an outdated technology.  Indigenous Foundations at University of British Columbia discuss that when one leans into Indigenous Epistemologies, Oral Storytelling has been utilized throughout history with Indigenous communities in North America relying on the oral transmission of stories, histories, lessons and other knowledge to maintain a historical record and sustain their cultures and identities .  Furthermore, these identities are largely shaped by Elders and Knowledge keepers profound and impactful stories that are shared with participants and community members when they have earned the right to hear them.  What I find interesting is that there is often more accolades and “buzz” for current technology.  This showcasing of modern technology furthers the notion that Westernized or Colonized perspectives and ontologies are “more important” and continues to center dominant discourses.  What if educators and institutions continue to find a way to balance all types of technology in our classrooms?  I contend diversifying and incorporating all types of technology not only models to students the diverse ways of thinking, being and knowing it also gives more breadth and depth to our experiences with the content.  And ultimately, it is a step towards decolonizing classrooms which is critical as educators to use our platforms to decenter dominant discourses.

In my opinion, Educational technology is utilizing frameworks and epistemologies that understands the breadth and depth of learning that can occur in 2021while being cognizant that all types of technology have the ability to aid student learning.  As educators, we have not only been tasked with teaching curriculum, but we have also taken on the responsibility of using our platforms to continuously reveal the world that surrounds students, the structures that uphold current systems, all the while naming and deconstructing those systems ourselves.  Essentially, education is a messy, challenging, amazing job that is constantly evolving and changing in order to meet students and communities needs. Diverse Educational Technology and Learning theories lay the foundation to educate with the best of intentions.  In the article Five Things We Need to Know About Technological Change, Postman opens with a very existential view that “there is no escaping from ourselves” and no matter the technology, human beings are attached to it and that’s where things get interesting.  He is basically alluding to the notion that regardless of the technology humans are interacting with, there is still a human attached to it.  A being that is trying to figure out who they are, who they are becoming, what society expects of them and how it lines up with their authentic selves. Technology has the ability to accentuate the human experience, to connect us, to allow us to gather and have information at our fingertips.  But, at the end of the day, there is a person on the other end of technology and that is where the need for critical and aware use of platforms is necessary. In the article Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age, Siemens would further substantiate Postman’s position with the concept that “theories do not address learning that occurs outside of people (i.e. learning that is stored and manipulated by technology). They also fail to describe how learning happens within organizations” (Siemens, 2005, pg. 3).  Using Education technology is not a one stop shop that is successful simply because technology was integrated to aid student learning.  It is essential technology and teaching is chosen with purpose, with intention with the opportunity to reflect, to critique and to see both the positives and negatives associated with all tools.  In the article Behaviorism, Cognitivism, Constructivism: Comparing Critical Features From an Instructional Design Perspective Ertmer and Newby structure the need for educators to discern their intention of their teaching, the ultimate learning goal and thus select an appropriate plan to assist students in learning the content. They state this need to select diverse strategies and “possess the knowledge of when and why to employ each” (Ertmer and Newby, 2013, pg. 44).

Throughout my 15 years as an Educator, I have utilized the behaviorist, cognitive and constructivist approach.  Earlier on my in my career I instructed and assessed predominately utilizing a Behaviorist approach with High School students.  Some examples from assessment include: Please list and define the 8 Fold Path found in the Buddhist faith.  Students would answer the question, and like Skinner’s learning theory- there would be an immediate reward of the answer being marked correct or incorrect.  In more recent years, the way I teach has been impacted greatly by technological advances.  I am aware students have computers in their pockets, and thus, I struggle with the idea that they need to memorize the 8 Fold Path.  What I am more interested in is how the 8 Fold Path is reflected in the Buddhist belief system.  How does it inform daily life?  How does it influence interactions within communities?  How does it illustrate what is vital and important within communities?  What can it teach them about their personal spiritual lives?  I am no longer asking for lists, I am asking for connections, I am asking for understanding, I am asking for a deeper interaction with the content.  I am adopting a Constructivist approach where my focus is understanding that knowledge “is a function of how the individual creates meaning from his or her own experiences” (Ertmer and Newby, 2013, pg. 55) and through social connection which was highlighted in Bandura’s social learning theory.  I have found students interaction with the content has greatly expanded with this approach as they interact with the content in a meaningful and real way.  With that being said, I do believe there are benefits from using Behaviorist and cognitive approaches to interact with material.  I want to model to my students how they learn, how they remember, how they can prepare as I am hoping to teach transferrable skills along with critical thinking and connections. 

Ultimately, it is my goal as an educator to maintain a balanced approach between all learning theories and using diverse Educational technology as the foundation to sound pedagogical choices.  I attempt to do this by integrating diverse ways of thinking, being, knowing.  I invite Indigenous Wisdom Keepers and Elders in my spaces to share stories and teaching.  I integrate content and videos that further substantiate learning outcomes.  I assess and instruct utilizing diverse instructional designs that range from correct/incorrect to inquiry based research that allows for exploration and curiosity.  I am far from perfect, and I am constantly learning but I can say that I am actively committed to trying all that I can to give students a positive learning experience that gives them space and place to learn, grow not only with the content, but with who they are as learners.  As Driscoll states: “learning is a persisting change in human performance or performance potential that’s brought about by some interaction with the environment” (Driscoll, 1994, pp.8-9). I hope to use my space actively and intentionally to provide that interaction.