Integrating technology into education is a hot topic these days, often touted as the way to prepare children for the challenges of living in the 21st century. I’m working with the principal at my kids’ school to help assess the school’s existing technology capabilities and assets. It’s been a good way to support the school with free technical consulting, and deepen my own learning and apply strategies from my graduate courses in IT Management.
What’s startling is the deep disconnect between what schools need and want from their technology and what resources are available to them. We parents expect and want our children to learn how to be good digital citizens and be prepared to live in a constantly evolving digital age, and yet there doesn’t seem to be a very good consensus on how to actually do that in the classroom.
From what I see, a big source of the confusion is the incredibly distance between how technologists, such as ed-tech entrepreneurs, investors and even district IT employees, view and use technology compared to how educators, such as teachers, school secretaries, and administrators do.
Technologists tend to tout the power of technology to disrupt long-established barriers, use data to inform teaching practices, and foster creative, innovative teaching and learning. Educators view tend to view technology as unreliable, inconsistent and a necessary evil. While there are some growing examples of successful integration, there is still not enough evidence that changing using digital teaching strategies are more effective at improving student test scores and learning than more traditional strategies.
There are also cultural differences. Technologists value independence, data, and creating powerful, elegant tools that enable, extend, and even challenge how we view ourselves and how we relate to each other. Educators value being part of a community, where everyone has value and potential. And educators relish the ability to help people attain that potential. Every child deserves someone who believes in them, according to educators.
The clash occurs when technologists believe that educators should be more systematic and logical about how to be effective at teaching. And educators feel that they are being held accountable for using technology that 1) is not proven to actually work, and by extension, not worth the effort and 2) does not address what teachers actually need to help them teach effectively. In addition, there is a lack of training and support not only for the mechanics of using the technology, but how to integrate technology into lesson plans in a smart and effective way.
What’s needed is a common language and a shared space for technologists and educators to discuss how to utilize and support technology in not just the classroom, but across the school and the school district.
For my final project in my Technical Foundations course, I created a framework that could provide the beginnings of a common language for technologists and educators within our school and school district.
The CASII Framework combines the enterprise architecture layer model from technology, listed vertically, with the strategic educational priorities established by the school district, listed horizontally at the top. This matrix view allows both technologists and educators to systematically review how each layer of the enterprise architecture model is supporting the educational priorities of the school.
In this framework, the Content and Application layers are the most visible to users, which includes school district employees, parents, students, and the community. The Services and Infrastructure layers are the systems that the school district IT staff supports and enable the Content and Application layers to operate.
An additional layer at the bottom of the framework, the Implementation Layer, contains the people, processes and management that’s needed to execute the systems in the upper layers.
Example questions that could be asked using this framework include:
- What data standards are available to allow the sharing of data across applications within the school network? Why: Shared data enables better reporting and data analysis across multiple groups in multiple systems. Shared data also supports more personalized communication to students and parents.
- What professional development resources are needed to enable teachers to support authentic learning strategies, such as project-based learning or research-based inquiry? Why: Without appropriate professional development, teachers have difficulty using these technology-rich learning strategies into lesson plans.
- What are the minimum technical requirements for district-provided devices? Why: Technical limitations could effect the usability of educational apps and software in the classroom. In addition, some students may not be able to access school apps if their home computers don’t meet the district’s minimum technical requirements.
In short, the CASII framework crosses traditional lines of demarcation between technology and education. The framework is by no means perfect, but it is start for a conversation. As I continue to learn more about technology at our school, I’ll continue to refine this framework with suggested questions. The end goal is to assess what existing technology capabilities exist, and ultimately, create a plan to build better integration of technology to support learning at school.