On Diversifying Ed Tech in Schools and Making Learning-Driven Choices

In his recent blog post at DMLCentral, Doug Belshaw shares some thoughts on how we approach educational technology in terms of 1:1 learning in schools. His thoughts are timely, as more budget-restricted schools and districts consider alternatives (such as BYOD) to single-device initiatives.

Belshaw presents Ruben Puentedura’s SAMR model, which proposes a continuum of how technology implementation can enhance and transform learning activities — substitution, augmentation, modification, and redefinition. He comments that most of what he’s seen in 1:1 initiatives doesn’t even make it into this model. Though I agree that often districts and schools purchase devices without adequately preparing staff and teachers, I rarely hear about teachers just sitting on boxes of devices with no idea of what to do. But maybe his statement was meant to be hyperbolic. To his credit, his main argument guides us to make sure the learning activities drive the technology use, and not the other way around.

Having taught in a school during the first three years of a district-wide 1:1 MacBook program, I can relate to his (and Douglass Rushkoff’s) impression that devices can have biases or leanings. I saw firsthand how kids developed skills specific to Mac’s hardware and software. And I have known teachers who stuck to their guns when 1:1 initiatives rolled through, insisting the new technology not be substituted for existing technology that better facilitated the learning in their content area (engineering teachers, for example).

Belshaw’s assertion that giving students access to a range of devices better prepares them for the real world is spot on. Though I love the ease of my Apple devices, I appreciate the skills I developed (through blood, sweat, and tears) as a long-time PC user. I wonder if schools are consciously making an effort to diversify their technology. I have not been part of those conversations in schools and districts, but it seems like an interesting argument to consider.

I’d be interested to hear thoughts on these ideas and on Belshaw’s post. Where do your own classroom practices fit on the SAMR continuum? Do you think the technology available in your school and classroom biases the learning?