On My Mind…Learning Spaces

It’s been quite a busy and crazy start to the 16-17 school year! Just finishing rolling out 50 updated K-12 classrooms based off of the district’s Next-Gen Classroom framework! Teachers worked all summer to concept their new classrooms, set instructional goals, develop new instructional strategies/approaches, find and repurpose furniture, select new furnishings, select desired technology to facilitate learning and got their classrooms ready for the start of school. You talk about thinking outside the box, getting outside of comfort zones, being creators, taking risk and having flexibility….it’s AWESOME! Taking a moment to breathe now, allows me a little time to find research articles on learning spaces. Here are a few research-based articles I’ve come across on this topic:

  • Baglier, T., Caswell, T. (2016). Destroy Your Classroom! Re-conceptualizing the Instructor/Student Model in Academic Libraries, Journal of Library Administration, 56(1), 17-26
  • Campbell, M., Saltmarsh, S., Chapman, A., Drew, C. (2013). Issues of Teacher Professional Learning within “non-traditional” Classroom Environments. Improving Schools, 16(3), 209-22
  • Hunter, T., James, B. (2015). An Examination of the Views of Key Stakeholders on the Development of Learning Spaces at a Regional University. Journal of Facilities Management, 13(2), 204-222

 

Educational Technology – Balancing Rigor and Relevance

Ross, S., Morrison, G., Lowther, D. (2010). Educational technology research past and present: Balancing rigor and relevance to impact school learning. Contemporary Educational Technology, 1(1), 17-25.

The authors provide a “wayback machine” view of the history of technology inclusion in schools from the evolution of the 16mm film to the early drill and practice programs through computer-assisted instruction to present day classroom technology usage. The significance of reviewing the past to gain perspective for the future of educational technology is best characterized as “Really Important Problems (RIP)” to solve in education due to the amount of technology currently available to students and schools (p. 18). Ross et al., carefully examine and evaluate the past contributions of educational technology research with a selected purview on uses of technology to increase the effectiveness of teaching and learning in schools while also recognizing that technology is not a homogeneous intervention but more of a broad variety of modalities, tools and strategies for learning (p. 18). Determining effectiveness as suggested by the authors, depends on how well the technology helps the teachers and students achieve the desired instructional goals through different uses including: technology as a tutor, technology as a learning aid, and technology as a tool. Furthermore, the article suggests that future educational technology research must achieve a balance between rigor and relevance while also focusing on meaningful topics that relate to current teaching and learning challenges.

There is great value in the way that this article has been carefully orchestrated in telling the educational technology research story. Rigor and relevance has been a part of the secondary conversation in K-12 schools for many years thanks to Dr. Willard Daggett from the International Center for Leadership in Education. Encouraging the robustness of that framework onto educational technology research will add a new dimension and provide a sense of purpose and urgency to future studies. By balancing internal validity with external validity through potential design options, will¬†serve as a great starting point for researchers. Additionally, Ross et al., deliberately review a variety of important research designs in an easy-to-read manner by pointing out key ideas and issues that lead the reader down a path towards finding value in performing mixed methods research. Overall, the essential message from the authors is that it is extremely important that educational technology research design will have a limited future in informing K-12 practices if researchers aren’t selecting meaningful areas of inquiry or creating quality, relevant and rigorous studies.

I feel that this article perspicuously outlines a potential and achievable pathway to consider when constructing future educational technology research studies. Past K-12 school studies have been heavily dictated by the federal and state governments as well as any supplemental grants districts have been awarded. Continuing to only rely on traditional measures for validation, can provide an unrealistic data representation and/or create an artificial condition for informing instructional practice. As mentioned in the article, a survey to hundreds of U.S. businesses revealed that high school graduates are entering the workplace deficient in many 21st Century skills. Traditional curriculum, assessment, data and research studies do not measure or capture these needed workforce skills. This is a clear example of why we need to change our research practices in K-12 school systems. We are studying and measuring the wrong items that aren’t relevant to our global society’s needs. This article has given me great pause in thinking about what, how and why I might study an educational technology topic in the future. I don’t have the answers yet, but will probably read this article many more times throughout the year to hone my thinking and inspire my creation.

Does Technology Make People Smarter?

Salomon, G, & Perkins, D. (2005). Do technologies make us smarter? Intellectual amplification with, of and through technology. In R.J. Sternberg, & D. D. Preiss (Eds). Intelligence and technology: The impact of tools on the nature and development of human abilities (pp. 71-86). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Salomon and Perkins present an exceptional article by asking, “Do technologies expand our cognitive capabilities in any fundamental sense?” This clever approach in questioning extends the age-old question of “Do technologies really enhance the classroom?”, by providing a much deeper focus on the role that technology plays in cognition. Their schema uses a discerning lens to study three kinds of “effects” that technology has in learning: 1) “effects with technology”, when it is used to improve the intellectual performance while one is operating the tool; 2) “effects of technology”, when the use of technology may leave cognitive residues which enhance performance even after one stops using it; and 3) “effects through technology”, when the technology sometimes does not just enhance performance, but fundamentally reorganizes it (p. 72). Salomon and Perkins’ definitions of the “effects” of technology assist stakeholders in determining the affordances and also the limits of the role that technology plays in the classroom before, during and after integration into the learning setting.

Salomon and Perkins clearly provide a value-added pathway to determine in what sense a technology or technologies might make the end-user cognitively more capable. Their strategy of determining the role of technology using the effects with/of/through, can serve as a powerful system for planning, implementing and evaluating the sustenance of classroom technology tools, apps, web tools and standalone software. It should be noted though, that it would be quite easy to use the three buckets of “effects” individually to disseminate a technology tool’s effectiveness, but there should really be some flexibility applied when appraising how technologies support cognitive functioning. Salomon and Perkins also identify the importance of technology as an intellectual partnership where there is a distinct and appropriate division of labor by both the technology and the end-user. Furthermore, the authors skillfully compare the effects with/of/through of technology on cognition to determine the pace and magnitude of impact to anticipate how quickly such effects can emerge throughout the learning process. These comparisons help stakeholders solidify the individual pieces into one puzzle, thus offering a complete picture.

I think this article has tremendous impact in the field of K-12 education. There are so many ways in which technology can make us smarter, but there are also many ways in which technology can derail the learning process. As more and more technology tools, web-based programs and apps get folded into the classroom environment as well as students actively participating with their own devices through BYOD, there is a greater and more urgent need from all stakeholders to better understand the “effects” that technology is having to enhance programmatic learning, positive return on investment and long-term sustainability. In the future, I could see our district using a two-fold approach to implementing the Salomon and Perkins framework. The first approach could be initiated when making new building, department and/or specific classroom technology tool purchases by hosting a collaborative instructional team to work through a matrix of intended use, effects with/of/through, support to instructional strategies, etc. The second usage of the “effects” that technology is having could occur in the classroom setting with the students and teacher debating the technology uses from a cognitive and social standpoint. Although the second process is perhaps a little too cerebral for some grade levels, I believe it would serve as a compelling exercise for both the teacher and students to defend the technology tools they use. Personally, I performed this analysis on an app-based platform that our district has used for a few years. My evaluation served as a great reminder of why we selected the tool, the grade levels paired with the tool, the intellectual partnership that the tool encourages, the content residues that the tool affords and the inclusion of the 4C’s that we strive to achieve every day. Additionally, I think there is more leverage up front in having an idea of how the technology will benefit the learner vs. here’s the technology, now go build some impactful lessons or units of study with the tool(s) provided.

 

Educational Technology Research

Roblyer, M.D. (2005). Educational Technology Research That Makes a Difference: Series Introduction. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 5(2), 192-201.

This explanatory article provides a durable overview as to the need for more organized, evidence-based and strong pedagogical connections within educational technology research. Roblyer clearly outlines the reasons why educational technology research is so problematic by comparing the studying of the “easy-to-do-science” of physics, chemistry and geology to the “hard-to-do-science” of social scientists and educational researchers. Additionally, he deconstructs the challenges of educational technology research by highlighting that those types of studies deal with local conditions that limit generalizations and theory-building, have ubiquitous interactions with a large number of potential variables and require the necessary approvals and permissions needed to gain long-term access to classrooms. Roblyer diligently shifts his focus in the article to the need to consider key pillars for solid educational technology research by encouraging future researchers to make a clear and compelling case, create a study that is built on a foundation of theory, select a method that should be dependent on the type of problem that is being studied and the information desired as well as develop a structured abstract that has a lineage that looks to the future as well as builds on the past.

Roblyer’s article renders a call for a certain level of quality assurance in future studies within the field of educational technology research. Although it is quite obvious through this article that educational technology research is no walk in the park and study findings are usually not generalized for the entire field of education, but there still is a requisite to carefully construct research that is rigorous and incorporates the key pillars with the potential for a degree of replication in the future. Roblyer’s thinking is of great value and a reminder to any newcomer in the field of educational technology research that there is both an invitation and a challenge to carry on research that addresses past concerns and clarifies the directions for the future. The significance of this sensible approach to educational technology research just might be the inferential bridge that can foster a connection to the past, preset and future of educational technology best practices.

I appreciate the candor provided in the article and found this overview has an incredible amount of applicability to the work I do in my school district. As our district continues to forge ahead transforming the teaching and learning process, all new methods, strategies and programs receive input by a variety of stakeholders. As an organization, there is definitely a need to produce a series of metrics to support our instructional claims, curriculum and content adoptions as well as the return on investment in terms of student achievement and allocated resources. However, that is easier said than done because there are so many variable “contexts” in learning that make it quite difficult to pinpoint exactly the validity of those new instructional methods, content and technology-enhanced supports outside of using very traditional measurement methods. In fact, we are finding in our district that it is actually best not to use traditional measures of student achievement as a means to quantify our educational transformations because our population historically exceeds the state-mandated expectations and those measures do not represent the framework we are implementing. Instead, we are putting our energies into doing a better job of defining and developing a pedagogical focus for technology-enhanced components added at the classroom and student level. This article really gets me thinking about what is of value to research within our organization in order to support our desire to achieve transformational teaching and learning practices from an educational technology perspective.

Learning Sciences

Sawyer, R. K. (2006). Chapter 1 introduction: The new science of learning. In R. K. Sawyer (Ed.). The Cambridge Handbook of the Learning Sciences (p. 1-16). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Sawyer’s introductory chapter on learning sciences describes the influence of an interdisciplinary approach to studying the teaching and learning process. He defines Instructionism, a traditional approach to learning, with commonsense assumptions that were never scientifically tested and highlights the need to understand how the knowledge construction process works, known as Constructivism, for learners to grasp deeper meaning in their studies. Sawyer further defines the sciences of learning to include cognitive science, sociology, anthropology, educational psychology, neuroscience, computer science as well as a few other fields. Using key components of the learning science disciplines, classrooms can be reshaped into more effective learning environments by incorporating technology and offering social components to better support learner needs and increased student achievement. Overall, Chapter 1 of the Cambridge Handbook highlights just how complex it is to design effective classroom learning.

Sawyer sufficiently connects all of the key concepts together in this introductory chapter. The big ideas of instructionism, constructivism, authentic learning, complex representation, reflection and revisitation, socio-cultural approach and the powerful role that technology can play in transforming learning is paramount. Sawyer clearly outlines the processes involved in learning which include acquiring expertise, working with prior knowledge and promoting better learning through scaffolding and collaboration. There is great value in employing design science practices to analyze a learning environment, identify the innovations that are working and to separate out those classroom components that need improvement. The end of the first chapter was summed up quite nicely by Sawyer questioning whether education is an art or a science.

I am fascinated by the framework of learning sciences. Not too often in the field of K-12 education, has time been spent pondering better ways to design classroom environments and facilitate high-quality learning. Usually time, money and minimal resources hinder any transformative classroom revamping. With iGeneration students entering schools and the new skills demanded from the global workforce, school systems are finally feeling pressed to reconsider what type of students they need to graduate in order to be prepared for college and career readiness. In my current position as a Next-Gen Strategist launching¬†Next-Gen Classrooms, I have the privilege of working closely with a relatively large group of teachers that have decided to reshape their thinking, instructional delivery methods, technology integration and physical classroom space. This article speaks to exactly how we’ve begun to transform about a quarter of our classrooms by employing new instructional strategies, offering students authentic learning projects, getting students to think across the curriculum domains, utilizing technology to facilitate scaffolding, collaboration, reflection and much more. I feel it is an exciting time to work in the field of education and to research new ways to transform the teaching and learning process.