How to Adopt Educational Technology With Purpose? — Observatory

Educational technology has long followed a predominant narrative, the idea that technological advances only automate learning processes in education. However, to delimit it underestimates its impact. From its origins, not always explicitly, the term “EdTech” (from the English “Educational Technology) has referred to discovering ways technology can support education by strategically improving academic training.

Although various tools exist to improve and optimize the work of teachers in the classroom, these mechanisms are sometimes insufficient if they are not applied for a specific purpose. Tiffany Ott, Director of Curricular Development at Teach Better Team, argues that educational technology will not make any difference if it does not carry a purpose. She explains that regardless of the preferred technological tool, what will matter is how it is used, whether it serves a purpose, and, above all, if it improves the learning process, not merely replacing the method previously used for teaching.

Heath Morrison, President of McGraw-Hill Education School Group, explains that “purposeful technology” can transform the learning environment because it efficiently optimizes the time to perform tasks within the classroom. It facilitates personalized learning, creating a platform students can use to direct their knowledge. With the help of statistics, such technology makes it possible to monitor each student’s progress.

Purposeful technology extends teachers’ skills rather than replacing their value. Specialist Gerald M. DiGiusto suggests that deciding to adopt technology in an academic program must be supported by a plan and justification. It should be guided by the questions, “For what?” and “How?” This “purposeful learning” approach is based on the idea that students are the center of the educational experience. Beyond performing specific tasks, teachers and students collaborate to set and achieve goals. If students help define them, they will become motivated to practice and master the skills and knowledge they acquire.

If there is no defined plan for technology to facilitate learning processes, these platforms or devices can distract and negatively affect students’ efforts. To incorporate educational technology, DiGiusto recommends following three guidelines:

  • The technology should be optional, not mandatory. Students can appreciate its benefits and choose to use it.

  • Enrich student-teacher interactions with feedback.

  • It must be inclusive in a social setting, promoting connections and generating resources that increase the learning quality without alienating the students.

The Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning at Northern Illinois University proposes that teachers ask themselves when defining the type and use of technology in the classroom if all students will have the same ability to access and use it. This consideration identifies whether the technological tools considered are affordable and accessible to those who comprise a given group. If all factors are taken into account, technology can help transmit knowledge. For example, when creating a presentation for a class that includes people with disabilities, the teacher must consider the length of the text and tone of voice and use images, audio, or subtitles that can be adapted to the students’ various needs.

According to Acer for Education, technology can help meet students’ different needs. No single solution exists for effective education because there are exceptional cases to consider, such as students with dyslexia, vision problems, content in the student’s second language, and sub-par reading for the grade level due to low-income family situations. Thus, designing functional strategies for everyone in various contexts (for example, incorporating a virtual dictionary) can assure equity in learning opportunities.

The purposeful learning strategy can expand students’ learning capacity if appropriately applied and considers their different needs, generating self-determination in the students to actively participate in their learning while improving their performance and developing productive interpersonal relationships.

Customized learning

According to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s Annual Educator Confidence Report, which surveyed more than 1,200 United States educators, 80% of teachers rated personalized learning as one of the three most essential elements that will transform future teaching and learning.

Janet Pittock and Cassondra Corbin-Thaddies, directors of McGraw-Hill Education, recommend conceiving personalized learning (PI) as an active collaboration among students and teachers to define needs, plan, and design a learning model accommodating the spectrum from the traditional to the innovative.

It is easier to implement personalized learning in classrooms with fewer students, but scaling it to larger classes presents a challenge due to the wide range of their needs and interests. Even if students in the classes have similar ages, their skills may not meet their needs or course requirements. However, principals suggest that technology incorporated in a plan could be the crucial enabler of teachers’ ability to create engagement with their students individually.

However, the authors of the guide Personalized Learning: The Journey to Student-Centered Instruction argue that technology in education does not guarantee a personalized experience or sufficient student engagement and commitment unless its use is planned. They propose the SAMR model (substitution, augmentation, modification, and redefinition) as follows:

  • Substitution: Encompasses a situation where technology replaces a task that typically would be performed without it. (Example: the student downloads a document to answer questions and sends it by mail.)

  • Increase: Using the technology is more effective than executing a task without it. (Example: the student answers an online exam and receives automatic feedback on correct or incorrect answers.)

  • Modification: Unlike the first two models that only enhance the educational experience, modification means functionally redesigning a task and transforming it into one that cannot be performed without technology. (Example: the student takes an exam with practical problems that provide instruction and knowledge.)

  • Redefinition: Refers to creating new learning tasks that become inconceivable to perform without technology. (Example: a student creates a lesson with audiovisual support so that his classmates understand the topic.)

In the end, educational technology can be applied within various systems to make improvements, but only its adoption with purpose will have a long-term impact on the learning methodology of students. In this way, EdTech can offer them the possibility of performing their tasks focusing on their tastes, skills, and goals, thus stimulating continuous learning.

Translation by Daniel Wetta

Disclaimer: This is an opinion article. The viewpoints expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints and official policies of Tecnológico de Monterrey.