On Teacher Confidence in Use of Technology
This post is a reaction to a tweet I read this morning about a “good visual” showing a continuum of teacher confidence in use of technology. The whole concept is not new. There are many continua for describing the situation we find in any school: teachers at different places in using the available tools provided by the school in the classroom. This model is novel, perhaps, in that it attempts to capture this at the level of teacher confidence. This model, and others like it, however, miss something profound in their simplicity.
There’s an assumption, I think, about using tools. We assume in these models that using tools is good, and more good is better, and more better is best. I have used another four-tiered continuum called SAMR in professional development with teachers. It describes at four levels the use of a digital tool in the classroom. The assumption is you want to work towards the end of the SAMR continuum, just as you’d want to move along to the Innovation stage of this new model.
Before that, we had LoTI and their seven levels in the continuum towards better teaching, again, the aim was to move towards the right towards level seven.
Through my doctoral research, I discovered that Moersch’s scale wasn’t entirely his own, but instead he adopted an earlier scale based on the impact of professional development on making positive change called the Concerns-Based Adoption Model. (See more here.) This new model, too, is not too-far removed from the ACOT Stages of Concern, documented in research funded by Apple in its 10-year study of technology use in schools beginning in the 1980s.
So what’s missing? We cannot just blatantly make the assumption that more technology equals better teaching and learning. I can be a hugely confident user and practitioner of technology in my classroom, but it does not mean that using technology is inherently better for students. Let’s take a simple example. Let’s say I’m a math teacher, and now I have the confidence to use the Khan Academy with my students. Too much Khan, I’d argue, is likely too much of a “good thing.” Not all students need 90 minutes (let’s say) of practice and videos every day in math class. For some student, it might be perfect. For another, it might be the opposite of what she needs. And for another, Khan applied in small doses, when needed, might be the right formula.
I’m tired of talking about these levels, personally. We can all see that teachers are at different levels towards applying tools in the classroom. What’s next? The harder part is finding out what’s best for each student — working towards personalized instruction — and then figuring out how to do that. It goes beyond, I think, one teacher in one classroom. It’s a big, comprehensive challenge that requires a lot of minds working on solutions.
I love technology. I grew up with technology all around me, basically at the cutting-edge levels afforded to my family in the 1980s and 1990s going to school. I used my computer at home to write papers. I wrote and sold software in high school to teach my peers to learn French and Spanish. I also used computers and programmed them, applying my skills at creativity towards solving small, interesting-to-me problems.
I can’t say with any certainty, however, that pre-Web, how profound an impact those tools had on my educational development.
Today I believe that the social capacity with communication, collaboration, and creativity built-into today’s computers and mobile devices has a compelling possible impact on our profession. But once we get over the easy task of getting everyone on board with using the tools, it’s going to take the work of everyone to architect, plan, build, and refine our schools with these tools. Let’s start talking about that model. Please?