Ed Tech Thoughts on the Space Coast

How Does Your Technology Get Integrated?

(or who is driving this train?!)

About this time last year, the Director of the Science, Math, Technology Education Department at Florida Institute of Technology asked me to come help him review some of the course offerings in our university’s Educational Technology Master’s Program. The need for trained educational technologists is one of my favorite topics... and one of my gravest concerns for the future of technology in education.

Here are some of the key questions-
  • Does the education environment have significantly different needs than corporate/business world?
  • Is it the role of Information Technology (or Management Information Systems) employees to establish how, when, where and what technologies will be used?
  • How do we elevate (or in some educational communities establish!) the role of the Educational Technologist so that he/she is the one consulted as the administrators make technology decisions?
  • Do I have to stop teaching to become an effective Network Administrator/Technology Coordinator?

There was a simpler time when school networks were phonenet (telephone cables) strung between a handful of computers, so that they could share a common printer. There was a time when teachers decided what hardware and software they were going to use. Not all that long ago, a help desk was near the front of the classroom, right beside the teacher’s desk.

But then that which we all longed for came to fruition - real networks that extended our databits out beyond our school’s campus. Not just access to the bulletin board systems and text driven email systems that the pioneers cut their teeth on, but a much bigger system of connect servers and clients - the INTERNET! And in the early nineties (hard to believe that it less than 15 years ago!), the World Wide Web.

Unfortunately, for many schools and school systems, that which some forward thinking educators longed for and saw great potential in also became a curse to our independence and self determination... when schools became networked, the principals and superintendents (who may or may not be very tech savvy) began looking for recommendations from those guys that were managing the mainframes and the dumb terminals.

At many schools and school districts around the nation, suddenly the MIS and IT folks moved from a support and data archiving position to becoming the technology authorities. The question to consider: - is ALL technology expertise the same?

If the educators weren’t proactive, politically astute, and visionary when it came to technology, they quickly lost their choice. Where no one with an education background came forward to learn networks, servers and new applications, the superintendents and principals took the counsel of those who had little experience in facilitating learning: those trained in a business model for technology.

What a tragic situation... is there still hope to regain control of educational technology? This takes us back to the meeting with the director of the education department...

I believe we have reached a stage in the evolution of professional educators - the modern teacher - that warrants a careful examination of a new literacy: technology literacy. What part does education play in providing a new generation of successful technology users- and who will take leadership in defining what technology literacy means? And who will decide what and how technology will be used in the educational profession?

Will teachers ask for an individual well versed in pedagogy to assist them in integrating technology as an “learning tool”? Will administrators recognize the importance of a technology integrator that knows something about Bloom’s Taxonomy and constructivist theory? Or will our education community rely on the guy who just got out of trade school and passed his MCSA (Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator)?

Or as I asked this director of the education department- will you provide an advancement path for the teacher who is seeking a graduate degree with practical coursework that better prepares them to produce a technologically literate population? Are we encouraging quality educators with an aptitude for technology integration to take leadership positions? And maybe an even more important question for those of us in PreK-12 Education: Will we be able to make the Educational Technologist an influential member of our profession?
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