Begin With the End in Mind: More than just a mantra when it comes to technology in education
Too often schools are in the position of having exciting new technology available and having to find the best way to implement and utilize it. This approach is backwards, Stephen Covey penned the phrase “BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND” and these words are particularly useful when developing a plan of action for integrating technology in schools.
Instead of trying to find ways to utilize the latest technologies, schools should instead let the instructional goals define the technological tools that should be implemented. As rapid advances in technology unfold, schools are often in the position of buying into what is the latest and greatest and then trying to figure out how and where to use the new technology.
The iPad and now the iPad2 (and soon the iPad3) are perfect examples of this challenge. Everyone can agree on the wow factor of these devices. There is no doubt that mobile technology is going to be a big part of any future technology initiatives. How this devices can effectively be used in instructional environments is still developing.
Many educational technologists are faced with the challenge of integrating these devices, with out a clear directive of why. That is to say, what is the goal of rolling out these devices. Often boards of education and administrators want the new technology, feel they need to be on the bleeding edge, but do not clearly articulate the intended goals and outcomes for using these devices.
Frequently, as in the case of the iPad, there are significant challenges that must be worked through when adding new technologies into an existing networked environment. These challenges can be overcome, but without a clear understanding of the goals for use, developing a solid solution can be difficult.
Is there a more ambiguous statement than having children become “21st Century Learners”? It sounds great and looks impressive when included in a technology plan, but what does it mean? Does it mean every student should be able to use tools such as word processors and presentation software to effectively represent the ideas and information learned about a specific topic? Does it mean students will be able to utilize social networking tools? Does it mean children will know how to use Google or Bing to search for information on a topic and then go to the wikipedia link on that topic? Or does it mean that children will learn the skills necessary to develop the ability to skillfully aggregate information and quickly discern what is meaningful and useful, while ignoring that which is not? Or does it simply mean that children will learn how to find and download an app?
The point is that the instructional needs should dicate the technology and not the other way around. The instructional team needs to identify its needs and then work to find technological tools and resources which meet those needs. Sometimes the latest and greatest technological wonders are simply cool gadgets,with little or no instructional value.
There is a place for Technology in Schools
I do not believe this to be the case with iPads. In fact, I believe very strongly that the iPad does bring a lot to the table. Its portability, functionality and ease of use make it a terrific tool for schools. Before rushing to place a large oder for these devices, schools should clearly identify why they are being purchased, how they are going to be used and what the goals and outcomes are for the use of these devices.
- EBooks in the Classroom (slideshare.net)
- iPads Improve Kindergarteners’ Literacy Scores (webpronews.com)
- Beijing School Begins Using iPads in the Classroom (penn-olson.com)