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Realizing the Promise of Technology in the Classroom


2012 Academic Festival

2012 Academic Festival

Everyone agrees that there’s a brave new world of education technology out there. But how to translate those advances to classroom learning?

That was the focus “Realizing the Promise of Technology,” a morning panel at Academic Festival chaired by TC President Susan Fuhrman that featured Gary Natriello, Ruth L. Gottesman Professor in Education Research and Director of TC’s Gottesman Libraries; Ellen Meier, Associate Professor of Computing and Education; and Luyen Chou ( MA ’07), Chief Product Officerfor the education services company Pearson, based with Pearson’s Schoolnet instructional improvement education software division.

In the past, technologies introduced to the classroom “didn’t go beyond the classroom,” Natriello said, but now, they function “in networked environment where the information flows back to the tool providers. So not only can learning technologies can be used to give students and teachers the ability to have more personalized experiences, but also the tools themselves can be continuously refined and improved.”

Chou, a former teacher, said that in that role he was “frustrated by the fact that other than through high stakes testing, there was minimal understanding” of what each child was learning or not learning. He said that Schoolnet software “takes data” about student performance “and turns it into much more detailed, actionable information” that guides teachers in what to teach, remediate or enrich. 

Meier said that, not surprisingly, newer generations of preservice teachers are more adept at learning technology, but that the challenge is “getting teachers comfortable with these tools and making sure that newly trained teachers have access to technology and really use it – that they don’t let their knowledge get stale.” She added that She added that these newer teachers “still need to learn how to teach using technology. Having knowledge of the tool doesn’t mean you know how to use it in the classroom with 25-30 kids.”

Natriello said that the pace of technological change is growing ever faster. “In the past, we were used to relatively large and expensive institutional systems that made it difficult to transition from one to the next. Now we’re seeing much smaller scale apps moving into higher education rapidly, through students and vendors.” These technologies require smaller investments, go through quicker cycles of renewal, and entail quicker decisions about what’s working and what’s not, Natriello said. “Students are equal owners of technology now,” he said. “It’s just as likely that they’ll send me to an app I don’t have.”

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