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Education, Reform, Teaching, Technology

Balancing Technology and Pedagogy

life is just one big balancing act

cc flickr photo by NCinDC

A recent article in the New York Times, about an Arizona school district, has garnered quite a bit of attention and raised questions about the value of technology in the classroom.  The article, In Classroom of the Future, Stagnant Scores, addresses the fact that in spite of a significant investments in technology, the Kyrene School District has seen minimal gains on the Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS).  This article has hit close to home, literally, since I live in the Kyrene district, and figuratively, since I am a proponent of educational technology.

The “elephant in the room”–for proponents of educational technology–is how the success of technology implementation in the classroom is gauged.  In the case of this particular article, results on a standardized test are the measure of success or failure.  As we are all well aware, there has been much gnashing of teeth related to the merits (or lack thereof) of standardized testing.  When educational professionals struggle to be convinced that standardized testing measures what is truly relevant to our students, I think it is a bit presumptuous to make judgements about the “value” of technology based upon these results.

As I read the article, I couldn’t help but think of the idiom, “don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.”  Is it even responsible to suggest that we dramatically reduce investment in technology based upon the outcomes of standardized tests?  Can there be a legitimate argument that this would be in the best interest of students?  Perhaps, the most intriguing quote in the article was provided by Bryan Goodwin, spokesman for Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning:

“Rather than being a cure-all or silver bullet, one-to-one laptop programs may simply amplify what’s already occurring — for better or worse.”

Whether or not it was the intent, this quote emphasizes the importance of good instructional pedagogy–be it technology intensive, or low-tech.  It also alludes to the absolute importance of providing teachers with the tools, professional development and observational/planning time necessary to learn effective methods of integrating technology in a way that addresses identified learning objectives.  So, is technology a “superman” for public education?  Probably not on its own…but it certainly has a role to play.  Consider a few of the things I see happening with technology integration in the classroom that are not necessarily measured by standardized tests:

  • Collaboration
  • Individualization
  • Creativity
  • Problem Solving
  • Leveling of the Socio-Economic Playing Field
  • Student Ownership
  • Student Engagement and Enjoyment
  • Parent Support and Satisfaction

In my opinion, student growth will almost always come down to the effectiveness of the classroom teacher.  We have to invest in professional development time and resources for staff–something that has not always been a point of emphasis in public education.  That being said, failing to provide our students with significant, and meaningful, exposure to technology is an inexcusable injustice.  Instead of making a yes or no decision about technology based upon standardized test scores, let’s work to find the appropriate balance between effective pedagogy and technology that allows all students to learn.


About azjd

Junior high principal by day, aspiring difference maker, and Jedi in my own mind. Act justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly.


9 thoughts on “Balancing Technology and Pedagogy

  1. I think you’ve completely identified the issue in any classroom….how does the teacher make their decisions about which instructional tools to use and when to use them. Answer those questions and you’ll find the root of all learning that goes on.

    This was a very good post and should give lots of people things to think about.

    Posted by ratzelster | September 24, 2011, 12:55 pm
  2. Last year I had an interesting situation that relates to this. After working for weeks, a child in my class presented a 30-minute fact-filled, interactive, entertaining slide show/video presentation he had researched, planned and created. He engaged the other 25 students in the class with humor, clarity and knowledge. I was astounded as were the other adults in the room. Then, when the scores came back, his scores showed a low growth percentile–I thought, sure, he may not have gained much with respect to that particular paper/pencil task (he passed and passed the year before), but he certainly gained extensive growth in the areas of presentation, technology, project based learning and specific knowledge skills.

    Paper/pencil skill tests only test one aspect of an overall individual’s repertoire. If the tests are looked at as more than that, they become belittling. I’m a fan of streamlined assessment to inform and improve instruction. I’m not in favor of testing that narrows learning goals and efforts.

    Posted by Maureen Devlin | September 24, 2011, 1:36 pm
  3. I look forward to following this discussion.

    Posted by Maureen Devlin | September 24, 2011, 1:38 pm
  4. I had a similar response when I read the article in the NYT. The quote you plucked out was the one that stood out to me as I read the article as well. Technology without training, time to collaborate about ways to incorporate a new tool and a fundamental understanding of how learning occurs will do little other than magnify what is already going on in the classroom. I wrote a similar piece on my blog following the article. http://smacclintic.edublogs.org/2011/09/05/my-take-on-the-issues/

    Hopefully the conversation will continue to resonante.

    Posted by Scott MacClintic (@Smacclintic) | September 24, 2011, 7:12 pm
  5. I agree that standardized tests can’t reflect the really important learning that goes on. One of me tutoring clients, who has autism, just finished dictating a 145 page story. I used Sound Note, My Writing Spot, Storyist, and Book Creator to help him get it to almost final form. Once we get it ready to publish as an eBook, he’ll have a book launch Internet party. He may even make a video acting out a part of the story, to post on my blog. Yet, his standardized test scores do not reflect his talents in any way, shape, or form.

    Posted by Nancy Barth | September 25, 2011, 1:49 pm
  6. Thanks for the post, Jeff. Some more ruminations here – http://goo.gl/zHVlP

    With appreciation,
    Miguel Guhlin
    Around the Corner-MGuhlin.org

    Posted by Miguel Guhlin | September 25, 2011, 6:08 pm
  7. If technologies are solely a publishing/presentation tool, I hypothesize that they will not significantly impact student learning. If teachers can use technology to communicate, collaborate, and critically analyze, technology becomes a powerful learning tool.

    Janet | expateducator.com

    Posted by Janet Abercrombie | September 27, 2011, 7:22 am
  8. I love this quote – “Rather than being a cure-all or silver bullet, one-to-one laptop programs may simply amplify what’s already occurring — for better or worse.”

    I addressed this in my blog post this week on Technological Amplifiers. http://mbcurl.me/26T

    How do we make sure our technological amplifiers improve educational achievement?

    Posted by Joel Heinrichs | November 9, 2011, 12:06 pm


  1. Pingback: Learning@Lightspeed - The Lightspeed Systems Blog - November 7, 2011

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Jeff Delp

Junior high principal by day, sports enthusiast, technology fanatic and jedi in my own mind. Striving to be a difference maker!
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