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.