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UCEA Review >> Technologically Enhanced Point-counterpoint on Technology

Welcome to the Twilight Zone!

Dear UCEA Review Readers & Members,

Below you will find the "enhanced" Technology Point/Counterpoint published in the most recent Review. It includes the links, videos, etc. that were mentioned in that essay.

My hope is that many of you (techie, middling-techie and non-techie), will avail yourselves of the information presented here and explore some of the paths where it will take you.

Have fun!

Mónica Byrne-Jiménez

Point/Counterpoint Editor

Friday
Jun172011

Learning to Play a Player Piano

Technology in schools today is ubiquitous. Educational technology makes bold claims of efficiency and the ability to provide instantaneous, useful information about teaching and interactive, simulated learning experiences. Technology is also viewed as a liberating force by virtue of access (to both hardware and virtual worlds) and the appreciation of multiple learning dimensions. In short, technology has been seen as the tonic to what ails society in general and schools in particular. Technology zeitgeists like Thomas Friedman make a compelling, if not alarming, economic case for more technological innovations in schools. More recently, my colleague and friend Scott McLeod (in this issue) states that we need educators

who are brave enough to create the new paradigm instead of simply tweaking the status quo.

I agree. However, if technology is to be not only a disruptive force in schools, but also to have a transformational impact on teaching and learning, we must look beyond the tools of technology and pay specific attention to its purveyors.

New technological innovations have promised to revolutionalize society and schools. The radio (1920s-1940s), TV (1950s-1980s), and computers (1990s-2010s), and now virtual environments and interactive, instantaneous communication tools have all traveled a cycle of high expectations and low results in schools. For example, educational radio promised to “up grade” teaching skills by having a “tremendous influence and have adjusted the curriculum, teaching processes, and even administrative practices to take full advantage of this powerful learning aid” (Levenson, 1945, p. v). The story of how technology, such as the radio, infiltrated the classroom but not the practices of teachers’ teaching and students’ learning is common. The chronic hype for educational technologies has outpaced the use of educational technologies (see Cuban, 2001). Why does this cycle continue? Why do technologies come in ceremoniously but leave in its wake dust-covered ghosts of technology past?

A Detroit school principal in the 1930s provides a rationale for the failure of educational radio to make a mark on teaching and learning:

The degree and rapidity of the development [of the radio] was determined largely by the interested and carefully controlled activities of teachers themselves (Thomas, 1932, p. 980). 

This principal’s reasoning served as a prognostication of how future educational reforms, with or without technology, were not able to penetrate the practices of teacher pedagogy, student learning, or principal leadership. Failure has not been a result of technical issues. Reform after reform has met psychological, organizational, and institutional issues, and reforms have lost. Rob Kling (1996) summarized these powerful dimensions with an effective analogy,

We do not simply replace horses and mules with cars and trucks.  We have configured an elaborate system of motorized transport, including new roads, traffic regulations, gas stations, repair shops, insurance and so on (p. 44). 

There certainly continues to be issues of access—implementation of innovations have notoriously been a story of “have” and “have nots” (currently access to Internet connectivity in schools and at home is an issue of educational equity). Beyond access there is another issue that is often conspicuously overlooked: the skill (capacity) and will (motivation) of the end-users. This is also known as the readiness of individuals to effectively use technologies and the capacity of the technology itself to make a meaningful contribution to both teaching and learning in schools.

In Kurt Vonnegut’s first novel, Player Piano (1952), he wrote:

Without regard for the changes in human life patterns that may result, new machines, new forms of organization, new ways of increasing efficiency, are constantly being introduced.  To do this without regard for the effects on life patterns is lawlessness (p. 52).

The lesson here is that meaningful and effective change needs extensive, supported, and sustainable strategies for the institution, organization, and individual that correspond with a disruptive force such as educational technological innovations. The multitude of factors or deficits that inhibit such change has been reported ad nauseam. Here I offer three grand challenges to create conditions for technology integration in schools. Taken together these grand challenges may prove useful in the meaningful, effective, and sustained integration of technology in schools.

Grand Challenge No. 1: Technological Grammar

Institutionally we need to allow technology to change what schools currently look like. Traditionally, reform efforts have been thwarted by the public’s perception of what schools look like—mostly from their own experience. This has led to isomorphism where innovations transition back to the established grammar of schooling (see DiMaggio & Powell, 1991; Tyack & Cuban, 1995). While there have been recent strides to innovate our school (e.g., Department of Education Investing in Innovation funds, local magnet schools, etc.), the constant issue such as assessments and standardized curricula continue to remind us that the form and function of schools has changed very little. That is, while technology has seen radical changes over the past 100 years (e.g., think of the technology of flight from 1911 to today—the Wright Brothers would be stunned looking at a Stealth fighter, but feel right at home in a classroom) in general school design, teaching, and student activity have remained static. The rules and designs of schools morph reforms back to this static grammar we have all come to recognize as schooling. A technology grammar will need to be accepted by the public and the institution of education. If we want different outputs from schooling, technically competitive students, then what schools and schooling looks like must change—and this change must be accepted as the new grammar of schooling.

Grand Challenge No. 2: Technological Coherence 

Organizationally, schools must become more coherent. Coherence will make or break any reform effort, no matter the stakes (see Elmore 2003). The prowess and power of an organization will always supersede individual efforts of reform. A key figure in a school’s organizational coherence is the school principal. The principal should model the way and engage in a learner-centered evaluation of practice. School leaders should engage in the very technologies they want teachers to use. Why lead a meeting with a White Board when you demand that teachers integrate Smart Boards? Additionally, school leaders must look at educational technologies not as “tools” that may be “used” in a classroom. Rather, leaders must evaluate technologies through the lens of student learning. This is a different frame in which to evaluate teaching and learning. Looking at student engagement and learning, not teacher practice liberates evaluators to focus on what works.

Grand Challenge No. 3: Technological Accommodation

Personally, there is a base knowledge that educators must acquire. Modern technologies must be taught by inquiry and doing. The advancements of technology “tools” are emerging at a ferocious pace. Open source programming, application design, and communication skills have created a new accessibility. Educators must not only learn a technology, but the process for integrating them into their teaching and their students’ learning (see Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge, Koeler & Mishra, 2008). Getting teachers to create their own avatars, to blog, create Wikis, QR codes, or to edit video are examples of development activities that advance knowledge to skill.  Such a transformation is difficult and the change process has been compared to stages of grief (see Marris, 1974). Asking individuals to alter their professional practice will require breaking an existing code of pre-existing practices and schema. We want to avoid the assimilation of new practices and seek a deeper schematic change, or accommodation. This will require innovations that are meaningful, doable, observable, and compatible to one’s practices (see Rogers, 2003). This change will come slowly over time and must begin in pre-service training, survive the informal learning in the teachers lounge, and be reinforced and supported by the reflection and evaluation by the school leadership.

 * * * * *

Perhaps Philip Jackson was a Vonnegut fan as well: 

… the greatest intellectual challenge of our time is not how to design machines that behave more like humans [we are already there], but rather, how to protect humans from being treated more like machines (p. 66).

The protagonist, Paul Proteus, in Player Piano lives through a neo-Darwinism where technology subsumes every aspect of living creating a dystopia.

This takes away creativity, individualism, and in the end freedom. Of course nobody is seeking such a world, the lesson is simple: Technological innovations in schools must seek more than efficiency and entertainment and be anchored in elements of creativity, collaboration, and communication. Here technology is liberating and equitable.

So where is the balance, the sweet spot, between technological bliss and dystopia?  Can new technologies break the constraints of the institution, organization, and individual readiness triumvirate? Will any new technologies replace the chalk-smudged sleeve of the teacher of tomorrow? The answers to these questions will reside in the fit of technology with the institution’s ability to reconceptualize what school looks like, the organizations ability to model, observe, and support innovations, and the match of technology and individual’s ability to accommodate new ways of teaching and learning. We cannot allow the intoxicating advances such as a Player Piano to replace the creativity of a composer and the artisanship of the pianist. We must regain control of the machines. To do so requires us to reimage our current institution of education, our organization of schools, and expectations of teachers. To ignore both emergent technologies and the grand challenge to integrate them into teaching and learning is inexcusable.

Note

Hopefully you are here vis-a-vis the QR code that was embedded in the online and print editions of this article. Our intent is to make these articles accessible as well as interactive. We welcome your comments on this sticky issue. You can also contact me directly at matt_militello@ncsu.edu.

References

Cuban, L. (2001). Oversold and underused: Computers in the classroom. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

DiMaggio, P. J., & Powell, W. W. (1991). The iron cage revisited: Institutional isomorphism and collective rationality in organizational fields. In W. W. Powell & P. J. DiMaggio (Eds.), The new institutionalism in organizational analysis (pp. 63-82). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Elmore, R. (2003). Accountability and capacity. In M. Carnoy, R. Elmore & L. S. Siskin (Eds.), The new accountability: High schools and high-stakes testing (pp. 195-209). New York, NY: RoutledgeFalmer. 

Friedman, T. (2007). The world is flat 3.0: A brief history of the twenty-first century. New York: Farrar, Staus and Giroux.

Jackson, P. (1968). The teacher and the machine. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.

Kling, R. (1996). Hopes and horrors: Technology utopianism and anti-utopianism in narratives of computerization. In R. Kling (Ed.), Computerization and controversy: Value, conflict and social choices (2nd ed., pp. 40-58). New York, NY: Academic Press.

Koehler, M. J., & Mishra, P. (2008). Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge: A new framework for teacher knowledge. Teachers College Record, 108(6), 1017-1054.

Levenson, W. (1945). Teaching through radio. New York: Farrar & Rinehart, Inc.

Marris, P. (1974). Loss and change. New York: Pantheon Books.

McLeod, S. (2011). Are we irrelevant to the digital, global work in which we now live? UCEA Review. 52(2), 1.

Papert, S. (1993). The children's machine: Rethinking school in the age of the computer. New York, NY: Basic books.

Rogers, E. (2003). Diffusion of innovation (5th ed.). New York: Free Press.

Thomas, J. S. (1932). Radio as teacher. Michigan Educational Journal, 9(7), 980.

Tyack, D., & Cuban, L. (1995). Tinkering toward utopia: A century of public school reform. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Vonnegut, K. (1952). Player Piano. New York, NY: Dell Publishing.

Thursday
Jun162011

Scholar 2.0: Public Intellectualism Meets the Open Web

[NOTE 1: As a little background, I fought against including any text in the print version of the UCEA Review. I have become so used to publishing directly to the Web that I felt shackled by the constraints of the print medium. So, my idea was to include only the title and a QR code linking to this blog; that's it. I lost that wrestling match...kind of. I did get Dr. Byrne-Jimenez to include a QR code in the introduction that points here. What follows, then, is the expanded version of what appears in the print edition of the UCEA Review. So, if you're here as a result of scanning the QR code from the Summer 2011 issue of UCEA Review, well, cool!]

[NOTE 2: If you're here by some other means, well, that's cool, too!]


In a recent lecture before the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), Harvard law professor Larry Lessig argued that the current infrastructure for scholarly communication is not consistent with the objectives of The Enlightenment (see video of lecture below). Rather, the system is more consistent with the reality of the “elite-nment.” That is, for the most part, knowledge created by academics is placed mostly in outlets that can be accessed only by “the knowledge elite.”

The Architecture of Access to Scientific Knowledge from lessig on Vimeo.


Knowledge dissemination is not a new concern. What is new are the many simple solutions not being embraced by the academy. There was a time when we had to rely on publishing companies to help us disseminate the knowledge we generated. The Internet has changed that dramatically. When “Web 1.0” (the “static” Web) came into being, one needed to be a coder and/or to master complicated software to self-publish to the Web. However, now that “Web 2.0” is mature, nearly anyone can self-publish to the Web. If you can send an email, you can publish to the web; literally, see e.g. http://posterous.com
.

Thus, there has never been a better time to be a public intellectual. Why is it important to be a “public intellectual?” Rick Hess recently released his “public presence” rankings which attempted to show which academics were contributing most to the public discourse in education. He justified the need for such a ranking system by suggesting that “...it's the scholars who...can cross boundaries, foster crucial collaborations, and bring research into the world of policy in smart and useful ways.” For as long as any of us can remember, we have been having conversations about making our work “policy-relevant;” how to better do applied or utilization-focused work. Now, we have the means to cast a wider net with our work than ever before.

If the notion of being a “public intellectual” discomforts you, perhaps you would be more comfortable with the idea of allowing your intellectualism to be public. In his seminal book on open access publishing, Willinsky (2005) argues for what he calls The Access Principle:

A commitment to the value and quality of research carries with it a responsibility to extend the circulation of such work as far as possible and ideally to all who are interested in it and all who might profit by it (p. xii).

Willinsky goes on to state that advances in computer-mediated communications mean that a commitment to the access principle now necessitates embracing these technologies “to do as much as can be done to advance and improve access to research and scholarship” (p. xii).

So, what would a truly modern day scholar/public intellectual do? Consider at least the following possibilities:


1. Open access publishing

Let’s get this out of the way first: open access and peer-review are NOT mutually exclusive. I am not suggesting we eschew peer-review. I do think we need to re-think how peer-review happens, and there are some really sharp academics who are pushing the envelope on this (see e.g. this article on open peer-review and the link therein to this article about the "experiment" in Shakespeare Quarterly).  New, modern modes of peer-review notwithstanding, there are plenty of good examples of high-quality, refereed journals that are open access. Just within the discipline of education, consider, for example, Education Policy Analysis Archives (EPAA) and the International Journal of Education Policy and Leadership

I think Willinsky's access principle is reason enough to commit to open access publishing. We have a moral obligation to share our knowledge in the most accessible ways. To support that argument, though, there are a number fo other reasons to commit to open access publishing. I will touch on only two here: finances and modernization.

First, finances. Do you understand the current model? Essentially, you write something really important, sign over your rights to a for-profit publisher and then that publisher charges YOUR university (and potentially other subscribers; individual or organizational) a fee to carry that journal. In other words, you are giving your knowledge to a company so they can sell it back to your university. According to my trusty university librarian-colleague, my university currently pays $771 per year to carry Educational Administration Quarterly (EAQ). The Journal of School Leadership (JSL) costs $265 per year. Think about all of the articles published by members of your department in just the last year and add up the annual subscription prices of all the unique journals in which they were published. Then, think of what you could have done with those funds, especially in these difficult budgetary times.

Second, modernization. As stated in the introductory note, and environmental concerns notwithstanding, my form in the UCEA Review was constrained by the medium. I was limited to 1,500 words, which would have been more manageable if I could have used hypertext. Instead, for most of the knowledge claims I made "there," I offered a citation or a footnote. In most of those cases, I could have saved “space” by simply hyperlinking the text. It would have also savde you the trouble of having to manually enter URLs into your browser. In this space, I can (and did, frequently) include hypertext (i.e. links). Hypertext is the (not so) new endnote/footnote.

Many open access journals offer .pdf files of articles, but they also publish the articles in HTML. Publishing in HTML allows for hypertext, but also for much more. I once published an article (Becker, 2009) based on analyses of NAEP data. The NAEP Data Explorer tool generated beautiful color maps to clearly visualize between-state variations. If you click on the link above to the article, you will notice that those maps had to be published in grayscale. Here's an example of the color maps I could not publish:


That is an "old" graphic and the quality is not great, but it is better than the grayscale version in the print journal, right?

Most print journals STILL cannot handle color graphics. With incredible advances in data visualization technology, there must be a move to publishing to the Web directly. Consider what the New York Times has been able to do by way of modern data visualizations. Here is a link to an interactive visualization of how Americans spend their time. That's a bit more meaningful than a static APA-style figure, no? I dare you to watch Hans Rosling in the following video and not conclude that we need to think differently about how we display data and the media in which we display them.

The modern publishing affordances of HTML are not as much an argument for open access publishing as they are an argument for publishing TO and FOR the Web. Journals can still publish an HTML version of articles and limit access to subscribers. However, to place scholarship on the Web and to then not embrace the affordances of "Web 2.0," or the social web, makes little sense. Consider the arguments made in the next section about scholarly communications via social media.

2. Social Media: Blogging, Microblogging and More

Today, those who best embrace the affordances of the open Web and especially social media dominate the educational policy discourse. In Hess’s public presence rankings, Diane Ravitch is #1 with a bullet. She has a new book (2010) that she has relentlessly promoted by doing the old-fashioned book tour. But, she has promoted the book and shared her knowledge via modern means as well. Ravitch has been a blogger for a few years; her back-and-forth with Deborah Meier on Bridging Differences stands as a lighthouse for any serious scholar exploring the affordances of blogging as a scholarly platform. She has also become an avid user of Twitter where she regularly engages with the public. As a result of her use of various forms of social media, Ravitch has (amazingly) positioned herself as the leading voice of the counter-narrative to the dominant educational policy agenda.

There are other reasons to embrace blogging and other forms of social media as forms of knowledge dissemination. Kjellberg (2010) interviewed 12 academic bloggers and found commonalities amongst the functions that their blogs served and their motivations for blogging. Combining the six thematically described functions and the three main motivations, Kjellberg argues that “there is an all–embracing motivating factor that emerges from the combination of functions that a blog can have and the related possibility of addressing multiple audiences or a combination of audiences” (Conclusions, para. 3). First, motivated by sharing with others, a blog allows scholars to disseminate content and express opinions to larger audiences than more traditional outlets. Second, needing room for creativity and self-reflection, the blog is a tool for practicing writing and for keeping up-to-date and remembering; it is a space to house early articulations of one’s ideas. Finally, valuing connections, the participants used their blogs for interacting and creating relationships with others.

Dr. Scott McLeod, UCEA's Associate Director of Digital Awesomeness Communications, is a prolific blogger. He now has over 25,000 daily subscribers to his blog which is now housed at bigthink which receives over 1 million unique visitors per month. His posts start lots of discussion, including one post that generated 140 comments. How's that for "impact factor?"

Scott's blog is largely targeted at K-12 "practitioners." For a more "academic" or scholarly blog, I submit Dr. Bruce Baker (#51 in Hess's rankings). Through his blog, Bruce makes the complex narrative around school finance highly accessible. He takes advantage of the affordances of publishing to the web when he includes sophisticated displays of data. A recent post about charter schools on Dr. Baker's blog includes 25 comments which, together, comprise a great argument between Bruce, Stuart Buck and Kevin Welner. That conversation happened "in public," not at some exclusive conference or behind some paywall. How can you read that conversation and not recognize the value of blogs as spaces for scholarly communication?

I can point to lots of other examples at the intersection of social media and scholarship. Princeton English professor Jeff Nunokawa has written over 3.000 essays using Facebook's notes function. He uses Facebook as his platform exactly for how accessible it is. Larry Sabato is the Robert Kent Gooch Professor of Politics at the University of Virginia and the Director of the Center for Politics at UVA. Dr. Sabato has become an avid Twitter user. His Twitter updates inform his followers about current political events. His real-time updates have become an important scholarly compliment to commentary from mainstream media.

3. Digital Curation

"Content is no longer king; curation is king." Various forms of that sentiment have been uttered widely through various media. In the so-called "Information Age," where anyone can not only create content but also share it widely, there is a real need for content-area experts who can serve as curators.

In the field of educational leadership and policy studies, there is a growing number of armchair pundits on educational policy and leadership. Some of what is being written or said about educational policy, school reform, etc. is of questionable value. However, there is also a lot of really thoughtful commentary and analysis being generated and published around the Web. Maria Popova argues that in a new world of information abundance, content curation is a new kind of authorship

One could certainly argue that content curation is not a new kind of authorship. Editing books or journals is about content curation and has traditionally "counted" as authorship for tenure and promotion purposes. However, at the risk of sounding repetitive, our tools for content creation are new.

Scott McLeod (him again!) maintains a second "blog" called Mind Dump wherein he shares tidbits from articles around the Web with links to the actual article. If you look at the list of the top "tags" he uses for the articles he shares, you can see quite clearly that he is mostly curating content at the intersection of education and technology. For that site, he uses a dead simple service called Posterous. Publishing through Posterous requires the skill of sending an email or clicking on an icon in your web browser. Really, that's it. 

Social bookmarking tools are also incredibly simple to use and ideal for curating content. Diigo and Delicious are the two most widely adopted free social bookmarking services. Users can "bookmark" sites, aggregate them using tags, and then share their collections publicly. I would not have written this article had I not spent much time in the last year or so reading widely and thinking deeeply about the ideas about which the article is written. Along the way, I have bookmarked much of what I have read. For instance, the articles I bookmarked about open access publishing can be found at: http://www.diigo.com/user/jonbecker/openaccess. Using Diigo, I have curated a collection of 32 articles on a topic. Furthermore, unlike content curation in a print medium, that collection is dynamic (I can add or delete at any time) and interactive (visitors can comment on any of the items in the collection and start a conversation of sorts). I believe this to be a truly modern and increasingly important form of scholarly activity. 

 

There are other forms of modern scholarly activity that are well-worth considering, including webinars and podcasting. Over the last 14 months, Steve Hargadon has been conducting webinars with authors, practitioners, bloggers, etc. all under the heading of his "Future of Education" series. Those webinars, which occur anywhere from 2-5 days a week, are open to anyone and are archived for anyone who wants to watch and/or listen after the fact. Hargadon has interviewed an incredible and diverse group of thinkers, ranging from Alfie Kohn to Rick Hess. The site housing the archived webinars is an incredible open educational resource that continues to develop. It is noteworthy and heartening to see that UCEA is beginning to engage in the podcasting arena, bringing the voices of the many bright minds at UCEA institutions to the public in modern ways. 

 

In conclusion, we live in a time of knowledge ubiquity and not knowledge scarcity. We need to embrace the tools that allow us to adapt to that reality and remain relevant. I stand with Gideon Burton, Assistant Professor of English at Brigham Young University, who writes:

I don't want to be complicit in sustaining a knowledge economy that rewards its participants when they invest in burying and restricting knowledge. This is why Open Access is more than a new model for scholarly publishing, it is the only ethical move available to scholars who take their own work seriously enough to believe its value lies in how well it engages many publics and not just a few peers (para. 7).

If modernity followed The Enlightenment, I hope you will join me in the “public sphere” afforded by modern communications technologies.