Wednesday, March 02, 2005

SITE: Wednesday's Keynote

I'm at the SITE conference (Society for information technology and teacher education) in Phoenix AZ. Being from Utah, this was a convenient and easy conference to attend. I went last year, and had a good experience, so I submitted some of the projects I've been working on. I'll be presenting later today, Friday and Saturday with Dr. Charles Graham and Geoff Wright. More on that later.

As is my custom, I'll be blogging my notes from the sessions I attend, or at least some of them. My formatting style will be to put my comments/reflections in italics. Whether anyone reads it or not, it's helpful for me to organize my thoughts.

The keynote today was:

Yong Zhao “The Social life of technology: an ecological analysis of technology diffusion in schools and its implications for teacher professional development”

Mr. Zhao asks:
  1. How much is spent on computer technology in schools?
  2. How many good uses for computer tech have been developed?
  3. How much are computers used in schools?
  4. How well are computers used?

OECD, 2004 report: investments have brought computer tech into nearly all schools in the world. But they are not used well.

Mr. Zhao talked about the difference between an innovation and an appliance, and the issue is largely one of transparency:

Evolving functions
Little expertise
Little social capital
Innovations: Introducing something new

fixed functions
more reliable
more expertise
rich social capital
Appliance: A tool designed for a specific function

Mr. Zhao explained three stages of IT integration
1. Psychological
2. Sociological “I want to replicate it in other situations”
3. Ecological “It’s part of the environment … We can’t study schools without noticing
computers. They are there.

He explained that Ecology comes from Greek “oikos”, meaning “household” combined with “logy” meaning “the study of”. I like the idea of studying the integration of technology as the study of a household, or what occurs naturally.

Classrooms as Ecosystems
  • Computers are constantly evolving
  • Consume resources
  • The survival of a technology is how “fit” it is for a certain environment

Here’s an interesting quote from Mr. Zhao:
“Ask your students, and they will not be able to tell you very many different ways to use computers, to draw, to paint, (to type).”
That is sad. Computing technologies are so powerful, and all we usually use them for is typing and drawing. That was so five years ago! J It reminds me of friends who want the biggest, baddest processors and souped-up machines so they can just surf the web. Can we find more powerful applications of these technologies?

Zhao's lessons learned from his study of the ecological practice of using technologies
  • Give the idea some time to grow. Do not implement too many ideas at once
  • Encourage play instead of teach – ideas evolve because teachers played and understood the technology
  • Connect to existing practices/beliefs
Some of these seem not to be too "ah-hah", but perhaps it's good to remind ourselves of these things. I did like his point that too many innovations can make change too difficult. I also buy into systemic change ideas, but I see the logic in both arguments.

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