[A portion of the following is an excerpt from the new ASCD book, Learning Transformed: 8 Keys to Designing Tomorrow’s Schools, Today]
For decades, school leaders have discussed “the need” to integrate technology. The problem with these conversations has been a lack of focus on the why and how technology can support a learning transformation. The greatest technology in the world will not garner hypothesized improvement if a concerted effort to change pedagogy isn’t the foundation.
As evidenced in various OECD reports on the topic, the problem isn’t the technology itself per se but the lack of high-quality pedagogy, which often stems from a lack of high-quality professional learning to support educators with effective implementation.
There is a need not only to better prepare teachers and administrators with the skills and mindset to usher in needed change but also to study and showcase powerful examples of success. Showing teachers what “high-quality” actually looks like is key. Professional learning must help educators do what they already do—better. It can’t be hypothetical, especially when focused on technology and innovation. Practices, skills, and techniques need to be real, be proven, and leave educators with a sense that they can implement them to improve learning outcomes.
An EdTech Arms Race
Constant hoopla around technology in education has resulted in an arms race of sorts where the use of the latest flashy tool trumps effective, meaningful long-term use.
The same can be said about fluffy, pie-in-the-sky ideas that do not take into account the real challenges that many districts and schools face. The good news here is that high-quality digital transformation can and has succeeded in many schools around the world.
For such transformation to occur, there needs to be an emphasis on instructional design, digital pedagogical techniques, and the development of better assessments aligned to higher standards. This might not be flashy or newsworthy, yet it is nonetheless crucial in establishing systemic change that can be scaled beyond isolated pockets of excellence in any given school.
It is important to note that this dilemma is not only specific to technology but also to innovation. There must be a concerted focus on the why, the how, and deep evidence of results.