I’ve shared this story a million times before because it was my aha moment when it came to educational technology, and it frames what I care about and the capacity that I think technology has to make in the classroom
When I was in high school, I had a teacher who liked to play around with technology. In my time in his classroom, and in my time helping out in the classroom, we had discussions on Twitter about social issues where we had strangers hopping in and sharing valuable insights. We wrote reviews of books that were read in class that they author found and made comments on. The author was able to distance into the classroom and participate into the discussion. Being able to share our classroom with the greater online community and see the value of (1) having members beyond those in our classroom community participating in our discussions and (2) having publicly available content allow us students to consider more deeply the quality of materials we were submitting because the whole world could see them. It was in these moments that I realized that technology, more specifically the connected web, has the capacity to transform learning.
If technology and online communities have the capacity to transform learning in this way, why are teachers not using these technologies more often? The primary reasons that teachers fear using these technologies due to issues of compliance, security, accessibility, privacy, efficacy in using the technology and other issues that arise as we bring students online in the classroom (Brescia & Miller 2006; Ertmer, Ottenbreit-Leftwich, Sadik 2012; Lewis, Kaufman, Christakis 2008; Murray 2008).
How do we dispel these fears so that technology and connected online networks can have the capacity to transform classroom learning? We need to have a better understanding of where these tensions arise, and how we can model best practices in this online space. Unfortunately, there still has research yet to conducted on these negative impacts, and although some researchers and teachers have given examples of what they believe to be best practices, we don’t know enough across generalizable groups about how this transfers on a larger scale. The question of what are the explicit drawbacks of using technology and how can they be balanced with the benefits is still largely unanswered in the literature. Were we to know the answer to this question, we could have more specific instruction for preservice teachers regarding how to use these technologies effectively in the classroom, we could have university policies and trainings that align with this understanding, or at the very least we could have professors who are informed of the drawbacks and can weight them against the benefits, being careful to comply and respect some of these security and ethical considerations, while still getting the most out of using technology and the online community in a transformative way.