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09. Technology to Support Learning

        Technology has much room to grow.  It takes a lot of time and is expensive.  Studies, nonetheless, have found that if used appropriately, tech can lead to enhanced learning.  Many aspects of technology can create environments most conducive to good learning.  Strengths include interactivity (do, feedback, revise), modeling and visualization capabilities, vast array of information, and enhanced communication.
        New curriculum can be developed with technology with emphasis on solving real-world problems.  Some programs have shown tremendous results not only on content-specific skills, but attitudes towards the subject.  There exists also the possibility of linking with scientists or experts.  Many large scale collaborative programs, like GLOBE or CoVis enable such projects.
        Computers can be used for scaffolding.  Early scaffolding included flash cards, but now more through phases of deepending understanding.  New visualization technologies that allow for dynamic models profoundly change the nature of inquiry, acceptable evidence, etc. 
        Feedback, reflection, and revision are new possibilities with technology.  These processes, including having students look at others, contributed to better results.  Oftentimes, these technologies are not used for full benefit.  For example, instead of using feedback remotes in class to generate histograms and have students defend their particular viewpoints, they are often used for quizzes and tests.  As there are many new decisions to make, choosing the most pedagogically relevant is important for teachers. 
        Network capabilities that allow asynchronous feedback also open new opportunities such as answering from home.  Students can also give each other feedback, which is a form of peer tutoring, and use the internet to search for material and continually refine their understanding.  This all makes thinking visible, which is another added benefit.  Databases often can collect and watch thinking and undersatnding grow over time.
        Interactive computer simulation systems that allow studetns to test out ideas and continually revise their attempts, offer feedback-support only as needed and less so as their competence improves, proved effective in an electronics training course used by the air force.  A geometry tutoring program showed similar results, with underachieving students gaining much confidence and giving teachers more time to assess. 
        Communication systems help parents stay informed of assignments.  With broader communities, an emphasis on groups, well-articulated goals and tasks, and explicit efforts to facilitate group interaction all helped coordinate learning.
        Technology also softens the barriers for teachers on their roles, giving them room to experiment and think about learning.  Having authority over knowledge is no longer the case, thus changing social authority of the teacher.  Devaluation of authority gives rise to cooperative strategies.  It changes teachers role to be a partner in innovation, needing time to learn and reflect, as collegial advisors rather than supervisors.  Online forums for teachers open new opportunities too.  Multimedia, such as videotaping teachers, offers new opportunities to help them learn too. 
        What still needs development is the undersatnding of the pedagogical tools offered by technology.  What aspects of teaching or pedagogy with technology must teachers learn?  What is most effective?  Still today, good educaitonal practice with technology is not the norm.  More learning research is needed in this realm. 

THINKING ROUTINE - CONNECT, EXTEND, CHALLENGE

CONNECT:How are the ideas and information presented 
CONNECTED to what you already knew?
EXTEND:What new ideas did you get that EXTENDED or pushed your thinking in new directions?
CHALLENGE:What is still CHALLENGING or confusing for you to get your mind around? What questions, wonderings or puzzles do you now have?
 
1.  Connect: I knew that technology can be used either for true educational means, to promote true understanding, although it is often used for superficial or gimmicky purposes.  

2.  Extend: The various ways that technology can be used - interactivity, modeling, vast information, enhanced communication - extended my thinking because it gave me a model to group activities or uses of technology. 
 

3.  Challenge:  Finding practical applications for technology in the classroom and somehow assessing their effectiveness. 

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