A comprehensive IT management plan will articulate a logistic goal related to supporting teachers as they become competent users of IT and teachers with IT. In addition to capturing a central role for information technology in the curriculum, this logistic goal will include all students and will include diverse technology experiences. For example, “Every student will gain experience using technology to access, consume, and create information and to interact with others in all classes.”
Context for the Logistic Goal
The need to articulate a logistic goal supporting technology- rich teaching and learning for all students, and in all areas, arises from the non-neutrality of IT. The information technology common in a society determines what it means to be “literate” in the society, so all teachers have the responsibility to expose students to technology-rich information and interaction in their field. Teachers who ignore IT today are no different from teachers who ignored text in previous generations. We know from the arguments in Chapter 1 that information technology affects individual humans, the organizations humans create, and the culture in which humans live. These effects extend into classrooms as well. To accomplish the logistic goal of using technology in classroms, school IT managers support a) on-going training to use IT, b) learning about emerging information technologies, and c) design opportunities to ensure IT- rich teaching and learning is embedded in all curriculum areas.
Soon after desktop computers arrived in schools, the Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow project studied the interactions of students and teachers in classrooms. One of the findings from that work, and a finding that has been demonstrated ever since, is that putting new information technology in classrooms does not mean it will be used for effective teaching and learning (Sandholtz, Ringstaff, & Dwyer, 1997; Schofield, 1995). In the decades since computers arrived, there has been on-going study of the factors that influence teachers’ use of technology. It is clear from this research that teachers’ beliefs about technology and teaching, the nature of the technology and its support, other’s use of technology, and the availability of curriculum and materials that make of use technology are all important factors affecting the decision to use computers in a classroom (for example (Buabeng-Andoh, 2012; Kim & Reeves, 2007; Mumtaz, 2000; Somekh, 2008; Zhao & Frank, 2003). Even as researchers understood the factors associated with technology use by teachers and the affordance of IT associated with alternative methods, the Standard Model of instruction dominated and technology continued to be a marginal part of students’ experience.
For the most recent generation of teachers, the difficulties of finding a role for technology in the classroom and then fully implementing it has been complicated by three factors. First, the rate at which computers and information technology change has been rapid and accelerating. New technologies emerge and gain wide- spread acceptance in very short time spans compared to technologies throughout the 20th century. For educators, whose technology-rich teaching tends to be cyclic with a one-year period, the obsolescence of technologies that happens on a time scale of months can be disconcerting and disruptive.
Second, the current generation of educators are working at a time when cognitive and learning sciences are challenging much of what they experienced as “good” education when they were students or what they were taught in their teacher education programs. We are understanding the complexities of human brains and the important role that emotions and social interaction play in human learning, so educators can no longer simply be dispensers of information. Creating effective learning environments is more complicated than it was previously regardless of the role of technology.
Third, education has become politicized at a scale that it was not in earlier generations. In the United States, education law and policy is created at all levels of government, and these laws can sometimes be contrary to other laws and they often are contrary to what cognitive and learning science tells us is natural for humans. In educational technology, the United States government has written technology plans in which educational and political leaders articulated new and more sophisticated expectations for teachers and school IT managers:
- Getting America’s Students Ready for the 21st Century: Meeting the Technology Challenge (1996)—The first technology plan focused on ensuring teachers had computers and software and were trained in how to use them; this plan largely addressed the need to obtain computing devices and ensure teachers could operate them.
- e-Learning: Putting a World-Class Education at the Fingertips of All Children. The National Educational Technology Plan. (2000)—This plan continued the focus on hardware, software, and also extended infrastructure to include networks and extended the focus teachers’ learning to the transformation of instructional activities to make use of technology.
- Toward A New Golden Age in American Education—How the Internet, the Law and Today’s Students Are Revolutionizing Expectations (2004)—This plan changed the focus from technology planning to different types of technology-rich learning, namely online learning.
- Transforming American Education: Learning Powered by Technology. (2010)—This technology plan again refocused technology planning on assessment and measuring student outcomes.
- Future Ready Learning: Reimagining the Role of Technology in Education. National Education Technology Plan (2016)—This plan is comprehensive and includes goals related to infrastructure, teaching and learning, professional development, innovation and assessment.
- Reimagining the Role of Technology in Education (2017)— In this plan that Department of Education of the United States intends to begin more frequent and less comprehensive updates.
In the decades-long history of advice for IT managers from the national education leaders, we can see changes in what they were expected to do locally. While it is reasonable for all organizational leaders, especially leaders of public institutions, to adjust their goals and their planning efforts to reflect new knowledge and developing practice, the changes in direction coming from external and politically powerful influences can produce unintended consequences for local communities. What was “best practice” while one plan was in place is abandoned when a new plan is released. Planners are rarely able to follow through with steps to address one set of goals before the next necessitates they turn their attention to other goals. The result is that educational technology planners have rarely been able to complete their plans and fully understand the implications of their work before the focus changed. Educators are also a non-neutral part of schools; their beliefs, values, and experiences all affect the actions they take. For those who have become deeply engaged with a set of practices and who have invested much cognitive effort in understanding the rationale behind those practices, the decision to abandon them can be distressing. This problem is exacerbated when the decision- makers show little empathy for the knowledge of the teachers and the affective connection they have for their work.
To accommodate these many changing factors influencing IT managers and the environments for which they design systems and to introduce some consistency into the planning for technology- rich teaching and learning, IT managers can use theory to organize their efforts. When work is organized by sound theory, changes in the focus of technology planning can appear less drastic to members of the organization than when new goals cause new priorities. This is particularly effective when they seek to define improvement in ways that can be affected by known factors and that can be observed with known methods.