I believe our focus should always be on what teachers are doing in the classroom. That said, technology can be used to support effective teaching strategies. However, these supports will not be made if technology is not easily accessible in the school. Furthermore, if technology is not ubiquitous in the school, teachers will spend precious teaching time focused on helping students learn the technology rather than helping students learn and reflect deeply on content. For this reason, putting high quality computing devices in the hands of each student is of value. These devices might be ipod touches, iPads, or even laptop computers.
By providing students with computing devices, they will have access to resources beyond the classroom walls, they will be able to communicate with others outside traditional school walls and traditional school times. While teachers provide important support for student learning, teachers need no longer serve as information distributors. Instead, teachers can take their rightful place as experts in learning – providing students with strategies, direction, and scaffolding.
While computing devices do not on their own change teaching practices, the presence of these new devices makes more concrete the way in which our world has and continues to change. Furthermore, these new devices may act as a catalyst for teacher improvement. When teachers consider how they might make use of these new tools, they are in a place of cognitive dissonance, a necessary condition for learning. During this cognitive dissonance, targeted professional development can help shift school culture from a place of compliance to deep learning and thinking.
While little research directly supports this vision, places like projectred.org are investing resources toward this end (however, i have some serious reservations about their work). Larry Cuban has studied technology use in schools over the last 100 years and acknowledges that technology alone does little to change schools and that teachers make use of technology in ways predictable from their pre-technology teaching. This highlights the need for prolonged and targeted professional development. Importantly, this PD should not be simply directed on “how to use the tech”. Instead, this PD is an opportunity to use the new technologies to re-evaluation our pedogogical assumptions. Research makes clear that the teacher is the most important influence in a classroom. New tools can help teachers reclaim that place as our implementation of these tools will be highly influential on student learning.