The Price We Pay For Love

17 Jul

I love technology. I find it fascinating, possibly addicting; I may even have a problem. It was 2 years since I was hired at the school where I currently teach. I had never used a smartboard but knew of them. While I was setting up my room for that first year I toured the school and noticed a smartboard tucked away at the back of the library collecting dust; it was love at first sight. A week after school had started I made my way back to the library to find that smartboard staring at me as if to say “Please take me and use me, I’m yours, all yours.” So I did just that and our relationship has blossomed into a thing of beauty.

But like all good things, I wonder about the end. As much as I see the current value in its ability to enhance music education in my classes, I know it comes at a cost. I’m concerned that with the rate of change in technology, educational institutions may be making costly mistakes by investing massive amounts of money on this temporary technology.

Is your school district leveraging its technology effectively? Do the costs justify the benefits? What does your technology infrastructure cost in terms of money and time? Unfortunately, few district administrators can answer these questions with any certainty. They don’t understand the real costs of developing and maintaining computer networks or the benefits of planned or proposed technology projects in measurable terms. For the most part, they base their technology decisions on their perception of the value of the technology. (Kaestner, 2007)

As well, how are we measuring the value of these technologies to come up with our financial figures?

Without a disciplined approach to measuring the value of technology, the perceived value becomes more a matter of attitude. The superintendent of one Oregon school district set a technology agenda early in his tenure when he realized the minor role technology played in his schools compared to the status it held at his former district in the technology-rich Silicon Valley.

“I was concerned about the lack of technology use in classrooms,” he said. “The first thing I did was implement a wireless network and start laying out plans to integrate technology into the curriculum.”

The superintendent in a nearby district said he wasn’t sure what the fuss is all about. “The use of technology with student learning is really over-hyped and I see little evidence of enhanced student learning through the use of computers, which are costly to purchase and support.” (Kaestner, 2007)

By the time teachers become competent at using smartboards, their time might be up (for the smartboards that is, not the teachers). As was mentioned one day in our Inquiry and ICT class, Smart technologies is apparently losing market shares and there are some schools that are still struggling to get teachers on board with the whole idea of using these tools.  

I will continue to use my smartboard everyday as I have been for the past two years until such time that a technology is introduced that will better enhance the needs of my instruction and student learning. Whatever it may be, hopefully it is chosen judiciously as we continue to ponder the price we pay for love.


Kaestner, R. (2007). Gauging Technology Costs and Benefits. School Administrator, 64(5), 28-33. Retrieved from


Inquiry 2.0

17 Jul

In my first blog I questioned the validity of an inquiry-based approach to teaching and learning. I did so not because I can’t see its value or feel resistant to the concept but more of a way to fully explore others’ perceptions so as to re-focus the lens on my own. Since my last entry I have tried to look at teaching methodology from another angle.

With the upcoming release of the iphone 5 there is no doubt Apple is already looking ahead to the iphone 6. What will it mean to educational institutions that are currently purchasing smartboards when they hear rumours of this integrated projector technology becoming available within the next year?:

I bring up this point because it seems that educational institutions have historically, at some level, been conforming to the technologies that are becoming available to support learning. It’s as though technology is driving education more than education is driving technology. 

“As early as the beginning of the new century, researchers (Gee, 2005; Prensky, 2001a) started to argue that students have changed fundamentally in response to the technologies in their lives.” (Thomas & Qing, 2008, p.200)

I would like to see more of how “technology” can change in response to our knowledge of learning. There is some evidence that indicates efforts are being made to further advance our teaching methodologies in the collective efforts of teachers and cognitive scientists:

“Thirty years ago, educators paid little attention to the work of cognitive scientists, and researchers in the nascent field of cognitive science worked far removed from classrooms. Today, cognitive researchers are spending more time working with teachers, testing and refining their theories in real classrooms where they can see how different settings and classroom interactions influence applications of their theories.” (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 2000, p. 3)

However, it seems to me that teachers are still playing catch up. Maybe it’s simply that computer technologies are developed much more quickly than teaching methodologies.

I recall numerous headlines that make mention of the fact that technology is re-shaping how we teach and learn. I don’t seem to hear as much about how teaching and learning are re-shaping technology. Can the opposite not take place? Rather than using technology to enhance learning can we not use our knowledge of learning to enhance technology? Couldn’t we be developing the “technology” of teaching and learning, and have the technology industry following in “our” footsteps to accommodate our new and improved methods of teaching? The world is changing because of technology. Can technology change because of our learning? Who is sailing the ship?  Maybe it’s a case of the chicken and the egg. Maybe they play equal parts and simply co-exist, feeding off of one another. 

I keep hearing how educational institutions are considered to be “behind” in terms of putting into practice what we know about teaching/learning approaches, but having acknowledged that, can we tentatively build on our inquiry methods and begin development of an “Inquiry 2.0”? What elements of learning and teaching will be required to enhance instruction of the future leaders of our world and what “technology” will be required to enhance those needs?

Welcome to Inquiry 2.0: 

Possible scenario: Teaching Methodologies Inc. has invested 2 billion dollars last year into researching new and innovative ways to teach based on their advanced research into teaching and learning. Market shares have shown an increase of 12% from last year and are projected to skyrocket with the advent of Inquiry 2.0. With the upcoming release of Inquiry 2.0, the technology industry will need to develop products that will…

What will inquiry 2.0 look like? As the world around us continues to evolve, so will our understanding of teaching and learning. As teachers, we are constantly trying to anticipate. We anticipate potential obstacles our students may face in their quest for knowledge or maybe prepare for a technology failure with a backup plan knowing you will have a gym filled with 250 students (ask me later). Based on what we have learned to date, and anticipating the direction of teaching methodologies and technology, is there any way we can play more of a role in deciding the direction technology should take? 

Technology seems to be dictating how we exist, communicate, collaborate, learn, work and function in the world. Why can’t our teaching methodologies dictate what technologies should be developed? I see the shift beginning to happen but still I wonder, “Will we ever catch up?”



Bransford, J., Brown, A. & Cocking, R. (2000). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience and school (pp. 3-78).  Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press. Retrieved from

Thomas, D. A., & Qing, L. (2008). From Web 2.0 to Teacher 2.0. Computers In The Schools, 25(3/4), 199-210. Retrieved from


Web 2.0: Is It All That and a Bag of Chips?

17 Jul

Brenda Dyck visited our Inquiry and ICT class and shared with us information about knowledge building with Web 2.0. I was impressed by the diversity of Web 2.0 tools that are currently available and how they could be used to support and enhance student learning in the classroom.  I was unaware of most of these tools and my mind began to run through possible classroom applications. This is the part where I have to be careful of which questions I pose to myself: “How can I fit this tool into my instruction because I think it’s cool” vs “Is this the best tool I can use to enhance instruction?” The reason I need to be cognizant of this is because outside of the classroom I have found myself using technologies simply because they exist until my wife proves that a pencil, for example, is a better tool for a given job.

No doubt there is a time and place for all the Web 2.0 tools but beyond whether or not they are the right tool for the job, there are other considerations. As Bransford, Brown, and Cocking state when talking about technology-based tools: “But the mere existence of these tools in the classroom provides no guarantee that student learning will improve; they have to be part of a coherent education approach.” (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 2000, p. 216)

As we integrate the web into our districts, classrooms and ultimately student learning, we might want to consider the following while developing policies and practices: 

What are the true intentions of technology advocates?

 “They promote a particular piece of software, interactive Web site, or digital device as if it were an enduring key to success rather than a transient tool of the moment. These are the successors of those who assured 1960s and 1970s high school students that knowledge of Fortran and COBOL would guarantee their career success, when actually a study of logic, English composition, and a couple of other languages might have been more helpful.” (Reeves, 2009, p. 87) 

We need to ensure that we develop partnerships with those that are truly promoting technology for the right reasons.

“Educators must distinguish between promoters who are attached to short term ideas and partners who see technology as a means to an end—enhanced learning. There is a crying need for brand-neutral analysts, advisors, and consultants who will help school systems evaluate alternatives in technology and who are unambiguously disconnected from advocacy.” (Reeves, 2009, p. 87)

Secondly, how does the nature of communication within the framework of Web 2.0 affect learning?

“Technology allows users to create and sustain “relationships” by electronic means, but such relationships lack the high-touch connection inherent in voice-to-voice and face-to-face interaction. The lack of personal relationships in the context of Web 2.0 is a problem because of the high level of trust needed between content contributors and users. The closer the personal connection, the harder it is to engage in deceit.” (Reeves, 2009, p. 87)

Further to this Light (2011) adds:

“In a traditional classroom, students talk face to face primarily to their classmates, and everyone knows that the teacher sets the subject and tone of their communication. But with networked activities, the boundaries can begin to blur. Students’ work may reach very different audiences who can talk back to them.” (p.14)

Finally, we need to ensure that our students can distinguish between data and knowledge:

“It may be creating students who believe that research means cutting and pasting until the teacher’s page requirements have been met instead of distilling the essence of an argument. Such students confuse data with knowledge and thus lose the opportunity to apply intellectual filters in a manner that reflects critical thinking. Today more than ever, students need guidance to turn the Web’s deluge of information into meaningful knowledge.” (Reeves, 2009, p. 89)

In conclusion, I am excited about the direction technology is taking and believe Web 2.0 has great implications for knowledge building but we must balance our enthusiasm of emerging technologies with a conscientious look at the complexities of its implementation.


Bransford, J., Brown, A. & Cocking, R. (2000). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience and school (pp. 3-78).  Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press. Retrieved from

Light, D. (2011). Do Web 2.0 Right. Learning & Leading with Technology, v38 n5 p10-12, 14-15. International Society for Technology in Education. Retrieved from

Reeves, D. B. (2009). Three Challenges of Web 2.0. Educational Leadership, 66(6), 87-89. Retrieved from

To inquire, or not to inquire…that is the question.

6 Jul

Being somewhat ignorant in terms of the practical applications of inquiry-based learning, a myriad of questions begin to flood my thoughts at the end of day as I walked out of my “Inquiry and ICT” class; why has my school not taken a vested interest in this seemingly obvious, natural approach to learning while others have made it a school-wide initiative? Why is it only fairly recently that “inquiry-based learning” has come to the forefront as a buzz word in educational circles? Have I used this approach and not realized it? Should I be using it more? What are its strengths? Just how valid is it?

The questions kept coming, but it was the last one that resonated with me a little louder: Just how valid is it? Maybe it’s just me, maybe it happens with age, in any case, I seem to have become increasingly skeptical as the years have gone by so the phrase “show me, don’t tell me,” comes to mind more often. By the end of the initial readings and class discussions it seemed obvious that one should implement teaching practices to include inquiry; but to what extent? 

There seems to be numerous studies that prove the case for inquiry-based learning.  “For example, sixth graders in a suburban school who were given inquiry-based physics instruction were shown to do better on conceptual physics problems than eleventh and twelfth grade physics students taught by conventional methods in the same school system.” (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking 2000)

I needed to explore the flip-side of this coin. What does the opposition have to say? Well, in the article entitled “Why Minimal Guidance During Instruction Does Not Work: An Analysis of the Failure of Constructivist, Discovery, Problem-Based, Experiential, and Inquiry-Based Teaching,” it states:

“Moreno (2004) concluded that there is a growing body of research showing that students learn more deeply from strongly guided learning than from discovery. Similar conclusions were reported by Chall (2000), McKeough, Lupart, and Marini (1995), Schauble (1990), and Singley and Anderson (1989). Klahr and Nigam (2004), in a very important study, not only tested whether science learners learned more via a discovery versus direct instruction route but also, once learning had occurred, whether the quality of learning differed. Specifically, they tested whether those who had learned through discovery were better able to transfer their learning to new contexts. The findings were unambiguous. Direct instruction involving considerable guidance, including examples, resulted in vastly more learning than discovery. “ (Kirschner, Sweller, & Clark 2006)

Now I’m confused. It’s surely easier to follow the inquiry bandwagon but as my father used to tell me, “If everyone else jumps off the bridge, would you do that too?”  Do I invest in teaching practices that show mixed reviews or do I stick with the tried, tested, and true methods? “Inquiring” minds want to know!


Bransford, J., Brown, A. & Cocking, R. (2000). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience and school (pp. 3-78).  Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press (Chapters 1-3).

Retrieved from

Kirschner,P., Sweller, J., Clark, R (2006).  Why Minimal Guidance During Instruction Does Not Work: An Analysis of the Failure of Constructivist, Discovery, Problem-Based, Experiential, and Inquiry-Based Teaching.  Educational Psychologist, 41(2), 75–86 Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

Retrieved from

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3 Jul

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