Author Archives: bjcoop

Technology Alone Not Worth the Hype

By Brian Cooper

No doubt more technology is coming soon to a classroom near you. But is educational technology worth the hype?  No, not if the emphasis is business as usual with a few more bells and whistles. In the current culture of technology, many of my students spend hours every day gaming in an online world of epic wins and instant feedback.  My next-door neighbor says her daughter is in constant communication with her friends through technology.  A room full of cramped desks and textbooks is a primitive place for many students, however technology alone is not an answer to our greatest challenges in education.  All stakeholders in education are tasked with reconciling our youths’ engagement with technology and their disengagement in the classroom.

In Stratosphere, author Michael Fullan makes a compelling case for the use of technology in education, but with the understanding that it must be partnered with high-quality pedagogy and change knowledge. He believes we are in a once in a century window of opportunity.  Education should instigate curiosity, collaboration and experimentation.  The use of technology can individualize learning for every student, while even a master teacher has difficulty differentiating lessons for 30 students.  Technology also provides students with real-time feedback, whereas it can easily take me a week to score and return math tests to my five classes. With the right teacher and adequate training with technology, students will have unprecedented learning opportunities.  With the right systems of implementation and access to technology, there can be a learning revolution in our schools.

Sir Ken Robinson and Tony Wagner are excellent sources of change knowledge in education.  These guys get human potential.  Let teachers assist students in four ways: (1) recognize their interests and talents, (2) encourage collaboration and creativity, (3) facilitate meaningful learning opportunities, (4) stretch students in new directions to promote deeper learning.  I agree with Wagner that knowledge is not much more than a commodity in our world.  Albert Einstein wasn’t talking about rainbows and unicorns when he said imagination is more important than knowledge.  What we do with knowledge is the juicy part.  Whether we use pencils and paper, or iPads and Internet, students must be called on to use information in creative ways that provide opportunities to solve real world problems for the benefit of their communities.   Technology alone is not worth the hype, but technology along with innovative pedagogy and applied change knowledge can transcend the hype.

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Exploring Edutopia.org

By Brian Cooper

I would gladly accept a half-day of professional development to roam the landscape Edutopia.  The educational technology blog serves the vision and mission of George Lucas for the “improvement of the K-12 learning process by documenting, disseminating, and advocating innovative, replicable, and evidence-based strategies that prepare students to thrive in their future education, careers, and adult lives.”  It seeks to create an inclusive community that promotes innovative project-based learning.  Topic categories include:  Administrators, Game-Based Learning, Project-Based Learning, New Teacher Support, Social-Emotional Support, and Technology Integration, among others. 

I have visited the site frequently and read many blogs.  In Ben Johnson’s “A Teacher Perspective: Advice for Principals”, I appreciated the notion that professional learning communities (PLCs) are not meetings inforced by administrators, but rather a teacher-driven entity that allows for collaboration and experimentation with relevant interests of the teachers.  Also, he points out that elective teachers are often lead to fend for themselves but can become powerful curriculum integration allies if brought into the fray.  

A blog post on Edutopia stated that teachers are among the busiest people on the planet.  Because I agree, Edutopia is a source of both inspiration and frustration for me.  It represents a common ground with urgent forward-thinking objectives, but much of its audience has very limited time to search the ethers for ideas to practice in isolation.  For those of us who are future administrators, how we will help create the structure for thriving PLCs to explore the Edutopias of the world?