What is Lost and Gained: Is all new technology good?
In the High School Classroom
Technology changes how students access information. No longer is it necessary to be able to find print resources in a library or look up a topic in an encyclopedia when you can google a topic in approximately 0.37 seconds and find millions of resources related to that topic. Students have more information at their fingertips than ever before, but is this always a good thing? Access to so much information can result in cognitive overload and result in attention shifts and distractions (Fried, 2008). Whether students are using laptops, tablets, or phones they have access to not only the internet but also social media, advertisements, text messaging, and many other distractions to learning. As a high school teacher I regularly use iPads or Chromebooks in classes for student research or other learning activities. The degree to which students are on task and using the technology for the intended purpose varies depending on the grade and academic level. Students learning at an applied or locally developed level are often distracted by much of the additional information accessible to them through such devices. Teachers need to facilitate technology use to ensure students are using it for learning and are able to use it efficiently.
Technology has also changed how certain skills are taught, some skills have perhaps become obsolete. For example in a recent workplace Math class I taught students how to fill in a cheque. I realized that some students were printing their name on the signature line of the cheque. When I questioned students their response was "I've never had to hand write my name". I realized that the more we use technology the less we have to hand write many things. Emails are signed with virtual signatures and so much paperwork is now digital. Should some so-called "old skills" still be taught even when we aren't required to use these skills often?
Within Medical Education
There are several arguments which illustrate the benefits exhibited by the multitude of technologies now popular within medical education. Nevertheless, it is important to not lose sight of the techniques and skills which existed before the adoption of current and technologically progressive methods of instruction. In a best case scenario, doing so prevents optimization of new skills by removing a means of contrasting and learning from the past, and in the worst case such neglect of older skills results in important and beneficial abilities being lost (Ende, 2002). Importantly, within medicine this can translate into increased patient morbidity and mortality.
An example of new technology having a potential deleterious effect within medical education is illustrated by a study which examined the use of PowerPoint within medical schools. This study demonstrated students taught only with PowerPoint lectures, now one of the dominant instructional techniques employed in training junior medical students at many universities, versus instructional methods utilizing textbook and peer instruction improved performance on a standardized board exam. The textbook based group performed in the 85rd percentile while the PowerPoint group performed in the 59th percentile (Southwick, 2007). This result raises questions about how medical educators use PowerPoint, and it also suggests that an important instructional design nuance may have been lost in favoring this new technology over traditional curriculum design.
Decades ago the physician with their stethoscope was often an image promoted by healthcare institutions and business. Today the healthcare corporations increasingly reach out to the public with representations of new technology, be it a new MRI machine or interventional cardiology suite. Without question these technologies save lives (Ende, 2002). Yet, because of the enormous utility of these technologies are clinicians becoming increasingly dependent on various imaging modalities or lab tests at the expense of bedside examination skills? Some studies also suggest that medical residents are experiencing declining physical exam skills when contrasted with previous generations of clinicians (Mangione, 1996). Are future physicians losing this important skill due to the perceived benefits of technology? Furthermore, and worryingly, is this because junior physicians are underappreciating the evidence supporting the utility of the physical exam? Within medicine several diagnoses are correctly considered clinical and do not require additional investigations beyond examining the patient. In fact, in some of these cases the use of technology carries a risk of harm, such as needless exposure to radiation from an unneeded CT scan (Bhangu, 2015).
The bottom-line is that as new technologies are adopted and new skills acquired we must be mindful of what skill sets are being taught and at what expense. Research can play an important part in this process by ensuring continuous quality improvement mechanisms are in place to monitor skills being acquired. Additionally, through such study which is mindful of the past the outcomes of various innovations can be monitored and elaborated upon. Forgetting this important fact can lead to pro-innovation bias and increased error rather than advantages arising from the adoption of a new skill (Rogers, 1983).
Bhangu, A. Sreide, K., Di Saverio, S., Assarsson, J. H., & Drake, F. T. (2015). Acute appendicitis: modern understanding of pathogenesis, diagnosis, and management. Lancet (London, England), 10000, 1278–1287.
Ende, J., & Fosnocht, K. M. (2002). Clinical examination: still a tool for our times? Transactions of the American Clinical and Climatological Association,113, 137–150.
Fried, C. (2008). In-class laptop use and its effects on student learning.Computers & Education, 50(3), 906-914.
Mangione, S., & Peitzman, S. J. (1996). Physical diagnosis in the 1990s.Journal of General Internal Medicine, 11(8), 490-493.
Rogers, E. M. (1983). Diffusion of innovations. New York: Free Press.
Southwick, F. S. (2007). Theodore E. Woodward Award: Spare Me the Powerpoint and Bring Back the Medical Textbook. Transactions of the American Clinical and Climatological Association, 118, 115–122.
How Do We Learn These "New Skills"?
In the High School Classroom:
We've identified that technology has changed the skills that need to be taught however we are unsure how these skills are being taught. How do we ensure that teachers are teaching 21st century skills in their classrooms? Having taught in three different high schools, I have concluded that teachers use technology in very different ways within the classroom. Some teachers are keen to use new technologies, some despise the thought of learning new technologies let alone using them in their teaching. Different schools have different approaches to using technology which is often based on the comfort level of administration in the use of technology.
Lack of tools, insight of integration methods, and commitment amoung teachers have been identified as barriers to implementing a shift in teaching and learning practices (Annetta et al, 2010). In order for teachers to want to integrate technology into their teaching and learning activites they must be competent using the technology (Koh, 2011). This raises the issue of how teachers learn these "new skills". Often teachers are expected to be using certain technologies in the classroom without being provided with any training on how to properly use technology. If it is left up to individual teachers to learn new technologies on their own time there will be many teachers who will not learn the technologies at all. This would result in inconsistency surrounding how students learn these new skills.
In addition to the challenge of ensuring teachers are technically trained there are also issues surrounding how teachers should teach technical skills. Educators must determine how to change student learning process both in and out of school and how to engage students in gaining 21st century skills and knowledge (Annetta et al, 2010). Essentially teachers have to reevaluatse their current pedagogy and look for how to integrate technology in a way that supports the curriculum but also creates meaningful and authentic tasks for students. This could be a daunting task without adequate technical training for teachers.
- Annetta, L. A., Cheng, M., & Holmes, S. (2010). Assessing twenty-first century skills through a teacher created video game for high school biology students. Research in Science & Technological Education,28(2), 101-114. doi:10.1080/02635141003748358
- Koh, J. H. L. (2011). Computer skills instruction for pre-service teachers: A comparison of three instructional approaches. Computers in Human Behavior, 27(6), 2392-2400. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2011.08.002
How Do We Evaluate These New Skills?
Historically, medical education was heavily focused medical knowledge in the form of independent units of knowledge that had to be understood and memorized. Today due to the ever increasing amount of knowledge and increasing use of technology in organizing this information a physician is expected to be a medical expert who is also a scholar dedicated to lifelong learning, and who integrates new and rapidly progressing knowledge. In 1996, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada (Royal College) recognized the need for this broad skill set with the publication of the CanMEDS physician competency framework (Frank, 2015).
The CanMEDS framework provided a new set of goals within medical education. Medical educators have a mandate to ensure physicians being trained uphold a standard in all the defined physician roles. With these new goals come new challenges. The now antiquated assessment models struggle to evaluate many skills demanded in a competent physician. Studies have shown that traditional means of evaluation cannot easily assess the performance of many of the physician roles defined in the CanMEDS framework (Chou, 2008; Sherbino, 2013). A new means of evaluating and determining the progress of a learner within medical education is required. This has led to the educational model of competency-based medical education (CBE) becoming adopted as the optimal means to evaluate and determine the progress of the medical learner. A CBE curriculum operates on the premise of defined educational objectives. The trainee must demonstrate proficiency in these define objectives to progress to more advanced tasks.
Now a new challenge is on the horizon for the medical educator. How can the educator evaluate proficiency within these defined milestones? How can we determine if the medical trainee is indeed competent for his or her expected level of training in a given role? Without developing valid methods of assessment an effective CBE curriculum is impossible. In the face of a new and expanding skill set required by physicans this problem is particularly important.
In the high school classroom:
Should teachers be evaluating technological skills in their classes? Many teachers feel they incorporate technology into their learning activities by having students use certain technologies, however I rarely hear of teachers actually evaluating how well a student can use a technology or how proficient students are in these skills. Research has found that there are very few countries that actually have assessment policies for ICT and other 21st century skills (Ananiadou & Claro, 2009). Reasons for not having seperate assessment procedures for such skills is because they are not taught in an independent course but rather integrating across curriculua (Ananiadou & Claro, 2009). It is essential that assessment policies are put in place so that teachers and students see these skills as a priority and so the skills can be taught effectively (Ananiadou & Claro, 2009).
It is clear that some evaluation is necesary to ensure students effectively gain 21st century skills but how these skills are evaluated is not clear. In order for consistency this should be implemented by the ministry at the provincial level. The Ministry of Educaiton in Ontario has a publicaiton entitled 21st century teaching and learning where they state that next generation teaching and learning and ICT will be emphasized as new assessment and evaluation policies are released. This suggests that teachers may have more guidance with respect to evaluating 21st century skills in the upcoming years; In the meantime this remains a challenge.
- Ananiadou, K., & Claro, M. (2009). 21st century skills and competences for new millennium learners in OECD countries.
- Chou, S., Cole, G., McLaughlin, K., & Lockyer, J. (2008). CanMEDS evaluation in Canadian postgraduate training programmes: Tools used and programme director satisfaction. Medical Education, 42(9), 879-886.
- Frank, J., Snell, L., & Sherbino, J. (2014). The Draft CanMEDS 2015 Milestone Guidelines. CanMEDS 2015.
- Sherbino, J., Kulasegaram, K., Worster, A., & Norman, G. (2013). The reliability of encounter cards to assess the CanMEDS roles. Advances in Health Science Education, 18(5), 987-996.
Technology and Accessibility
Technology can become an overwhelming problem rather than a strategic tool (Woodall, 2013).
Norum, Grabinger, and Duffield (1999) state that in 1995 there were 5.8 million computers but of those computers teachers would start to rely on the technology and than encounter obstacles that lead to abandoning the technology. Teachers have made the shift from a teacher-centered approach to a student-centered approach. Some teachers feared even starting to use the technology with the worry that it was stop working and control would be lost completely within a classroom (Norum, Grabinger, and Duffield, 1999).
Norum, Grabinger, and Duffield (1999) state that setting up the classroom can be very difficult. Having a classroom set up with the right amount of plugs and the teacher having the knowledge to back up all the content being delivered. Is it the teachers fault? No, Structurally classrooms are not all created to have plugs for every student. Classrooms are typically not built to have stations that allow for charging. Teachers are trying to leave designated areas for charging stations that may not be the safest for the technology.
Classroom sets of technology have been created such as chrome book carts. This is where a cart holds a set number of computers that is then used for multiple classrooms. Great, until the technology is shared amongst the school forcing teachers to plan lessons according to times in which the card is able to be accessed by a particular class. What if some students take longer? What if they are interested and have spare time? Is it write to say to students cannot work on their project as if they have any extra time. We are now limiting student’s ability to access a piece of technology and could stop their interest in an activity. Expectations have shifted within pedagogy from the focus to being on content to now having the ability to apply that content using multiple skills including technology. What happens when the student goes home and wants to work on their assignment? Students are limited and unable to right click on their computer which is limited the ease of the technology.
Norman,K., Grabinger,S., Duffield, J. (1999)Healing the Universe is an Inside Job: Teachers’ Views on Integrating Technology
Journal of Technology and Teacher Education, 7 (3), 187–203
Woodall, S (2013)21st Century Educators: Teaching with Technology. Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference, 1467–1471.
Does Pedagogy Rely on New Technology?
"To put it simply, effective teaching requires effective technology use" (Ertmer & Ottenbreit-Leftwich, 2010)
As a relatively new teacher having graduated from a B.Ed program only five years ago I certiainly rely on technology in my instructional practices. A classroom without a SMARTboard creates anxiety and panic when the only form of teaching you know involves one. Pedagogy can be summarized by the art of teaching but also encompasses how teachers think, talk, plan, and structure learning activities (Beetham & Sharpe, 2013). To answer the question above we must reflect on how teachers have changed how they think, talk, plan, and structure learning activities and if technology is required to successful accomplish these activities. If teachers do not change their pedagogy as technology changes they are not likely to embrace new technologies and integrate them into their practice.
Technology has greatly changed educational institutions with advanced networks and digital systems to change how students interact with each other and their teachers (Beetham & Sharpe, 2013). A pedagogy-technology model has been developed by Lin, et al (2012) which evaluates a teachers technical competency and pedagogical competency in two dimensions creating a 28 square grid. This model allows teachers to evaluate their technical competency (ranging from nonuse to sophisticated instructional applications) and their pedagogical competency (direct teaching, cognitively active learning, constructive learning, and social learning) (Lin et al, 2012). This model can help guide teachers to higher integration of ICT in their pedagogy (Lin et al, 2012).
In order for teachers to adequately serve their students their pedagogy must change as technology changes. This is likely to create a reliance on technology. Relying on technology can seem like a potential problem however incorporating new technologies isn't new in the teaching world. Beetham & Sharpe (2013) remind us that paper, chalk, overhead projectors, and television were also innovations once. Pedagogy may rely on new technologies but that isn't necessarily a bad thing.
- Beetham, H., & Sharpe, R. (2013). Rethinking pedagogy for a digital age: Designing for 21st century learning. routledge.
- Ertmer, P. A., & Ottenbreit-Leftwich, A. T. (2010). Teacher technology change: How knowledge, confidence, beliefs, and culture intersect. Journal of research on Technology in Education, 42(3), 255-284.
- Lin, J. M., Wang, P., & Lin, I. (2012). Pedagogy technology: A two‐dimensional model for teachers' ICT integration. British Journal of Educational Technology, 43(1), 97-108. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8535.2010.01159.x