Monday, September 17, 2012

What is instructional technology?

My school is working to improve student achievement in many different ways. One way is having teachers join groups with a specific focus. The group I joined was for instructional technology. I feel like I know a thing or two about this topic and was excited to work with my staff.

The group did not go in the direction I had hoped. There seemed to be more of a focus on tools teachers used (Gradebook, attendance, email, etc) and less on tools teachers use with students.

I think that Instructional Technology should focus more on the teacher and student use and less about teacher only use. Am I wrong in my thinking? I felt like my group was more focused on the other kind of tech. There is time for that help for teachers, but I felt the group should focus more on how technology can help out students and not just ourselves.

Please share your thoughts.



  1. Mr. P,

    I am a school teacher whose school is starting to take step to make better use of data that we collect to improve student learning.

    I have been tasked with contacting other educators and schools to see how they are using data.

    Do you have any outlines or forms or protocols that you might be willing to share to show how your school is using this information?


    Gary Johnston

  2. I could not agree more with your post. Too often, the debate about educational technology centers around how we teachers use or experience it. It seems to me that it is more important for us to consider how students experience and most importantly use instructional technology to enhance their learning. At the end of the day, the goal of using instructional technology should be about making our students better learners and citizens. If as a by product of this, we also automate our attendance system, that is great, but the focus must always be on how students can use technology to make their learning experience a better one.

    Pontus Hiort

  3. And much of the tech tools "covered" in those sessions -- gradebooks as a case in point -- actually push us even further away from what schools could be when supported by constructivist technologies. They're more about traditional management than inquiry and risk-taking, moving schools even further away from the richness many students have found in their tech endeavors outside school. And take up the time that teachers could spend on their creative play of their own. (I'm guessing that's what you were looking for, Nick)

  4. lt's sad to think that that approach is still around in 2012, but it is. You don't mention the current technology level of the staff. Ever the optimist, I'll just note that if the majority of them are beginners, this may open the door for great things to happen. Once they realize the potential, it's easier to transfer it to the classroom. I hope that's the case for you.

    If not, well, that's a whole different topic!

  5. Sorry to hear the focus tof technology integration in your school Nick. I think that everything that we add to the classroom should be based around the question: How will this improve learning outcomes for students? I think one thing that takes us away from this focus is the word technology itself. We just need to focus on learning resources whether they are based on technological tools or any other resource that we can bring into our classrooms to improve learning and student engagement.

    If we are just moving from classrooms where teachers have traditionally done all of the work in the front of the room and adding some bells an whistles for the same type of instructional delivery then we have wasted a lot of time and money.

  6. Don't think we need to be sorry or sad. Think it is a point of readiness. We had the same conversation today about direction with respect to pd. There is much more that can and will happen but where we are at there is still a need to cover some of the basic things you mention. This will not be the only focus but with colleagues feeling overwhelmed with the tools we have it is a natural first step.

    Next steps will take them in the direction others have mentioned. Am hoping that will be the same for you.

  7. Couldn't agree more. The purpose of technology in schools is to improve teaching practice and enhance student learning. If educators focus solely on what technology can do for teachers, they're missing the point. Students won't benefit from technology use if they can't get their hands on it. I am a huge believer in using technology to accomplish tasks more efficiently, but that shouldn't be the focus of a group whose title is the "instructional technology group".... with an emphasis on the word "instructional". Perhaps you can work to steer the group in the right direction by sharing some of your own student projects and instructional techniques that incorporate technology. When teachers see the amazing things that can happen in a classroom where technology is integrated in innovative and meaningful ways, that kind of teaching tends to be contagious. Good luck! P.S. I wrote a short post in February that you might want to share with your group:

  8. Hi Nick~
    It troubles me on many levels to hear this.

    I am aware, as you are, that many teachers in the district utilize technology for student instruction and learning. Teaming up with them and formulating a plan that does not require district funding but illustrates how learning is impacted may be a route. Additionally, I would not underestimate the impact of your PLN for resources and in some cases, finances. Unfortunately, I'm probably accurate in saying you are not the only one with this issue in the district.

    I think it's important to encourage teachers to find avenues for students to support their learning through technology.

    Philosophically, you are right on with what you are trying to do. Find others doing the same things or find those wanting to contribute to student learning in a similar way.

    The quote that comes to mind, "If you want to achieve greatness, stop asking for permission."

    I absolutely realize -easier said than done...

  9. We recently passed a bond that will increase internet access and improve/update/increase the technology we have available for teachers and students. My mantra as Director of Technology has been: We will not spend a dime on technology unless it fundamentally improves how teachers teach or students learn. The "new" technology we have added is designed to be interactive for the student, not the teacher. I did not want to add another "teacher tool". I want Tools of Engagement, things that engage and involve students. An engaged student is a learning student.

    That being said, Instructional Technology is not another tool for bookkeeping, record keeping, grades. Instructional Technology is tech that engages/involves a student. Student learning in not enhanced when a teacher learns how to better use a gradebook. Student learning can be enhanced when a teacher learns how to use Google Docs or other student accessible tools.

  10. I think what you are witnessing is a natural transition for many teachers. Those folks need to move form Type I to Type II Tech,
    Your presence and continued challenging can help mold their future views on true instructional technology!

  11. I agree that Instructional Technology should be about having the students create with and use the technology to improve their learning and knowledge. I have done a ton of workshops for teachers who want to know how to save fabulous PPT backgrounds, but don't want to hear that PPT is dead. I think that IT should be about the students and helping them to create meaning from their knowledge.
    Laurie Fowler
    Tuscaloosa, AL

  12. I also agree. Educational technology should focus on how the students will succeed because of the technology in place. Unless your district was implementing a new system for email such as Google Apps for Education and people were trying to find ways to use those things to improve engagement in students I think the time could be better spent on finding ways for students to work with technology. From following you on twitter I see how much you have your kids interact with technology. I would think those would be valuable things to talk about while in those small groups!

    Leslie Ferrington

  13. Nick,
    I'm going to throw in another question - "What is technology integration?" We always talk about it and expect to see it in the classroom - but what does it look like? I think we all have different definitions, and we need to address the fact that we interpret the phrase differently. In a conversation with an elementary principal yesterday, we decided that we're going to bring up this topic at her next staff meeting. During this time - we will model the use of Smart Response clickers as a tool that can provide invaluable data to guide instruction. I'm excited to have a discussion about this topic with an entire staff. I also think that the terms "technology integration" and "instructional technology" are overused and need to include some verbiage related to students, as they are supposed to be the prime users. What other terms can we use?

  14. I believe instructional technolog should not focus on the " technology tool" but rather how instructional technology is integrated into the common core standards. Technology tools continually change so the common core has to drive the boat and the technology should assist students and staff how to collaborate,,assess and create authentic products.

  15. As a Technology Coach in a 1:1 iPad school, I completely agree with you! I'm excited to work with teachers this year to help them use technology WITH the students in order to make meaningful connections to curriculum.

  16. Hey Pal,

    Maybe you can refocus the conversation with the simple PLC question: "What DO we want students to know and be able to do by the time they leave our schools -- and how can new technologies help us to get there?"

    At least that would remind everyone at the beginning of every meeting that conversations in schools should be centered around the needs of kids!

    Hope you're well,

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  18. I agree with you. Instructional technology is NOT the same as student management systems. SMSs do not guide instruction (unless you are using the data in some meaningful process). Maybe you can create a new group that involves using technology to engage students and to create meaningful and relevant content?

  19. What a great opportunity this presents for you to share a different vision of how technology can be used for learning as well as collecting data about the results of learning. I hope you'll stick with this group and be that gentle voice and keeps moving them onward and upward!


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