Data Use, Technology, and Educational Leadership
Hello from Dublin International Airport! On Monday, I speak at EU Parliament about the future of educational technologies in the Europe. Below is the executive summary for the paper that goes with the talk, “Choices and challenges in the digital era: A look ahead.” It was co-authored with Boston College doc student Adam Steiner.
Technology has produced fundamental changes in the routines of daily life, but the educational world has remained largely unchanged. Adding complication to this dilemma, different technologies may promise different forms of contribution to education. Accordingly, this brief takes stock of three sets of focus technologies, each carrying potential to improve teaching and learning in Europe: Open Educational Resources (OERs), digital devices and 1:1 computing, and computer data systems.
Open Educational Resources
Internet and satellite-based connections have led to significant changes in how people access and use information. Open educational resources (OERs) attempt to capitalize on these changes by offering up free, openly licensed educational materials. This category of resources includes Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), which offer online coursework and instruction to many participants at once. An alternative conceptualization of OER involves the use of Web 2.0 technologies (e.g., wikis, blogs, social networking sites), which have become especially popular in every lives. Using these technologies, educators and students may freely share questions, insights, and resources. Both approaches represent a trend toward “anytime, anywhere” learning. Important considerations for the use of OERs include: promoting their value to potential users; advancing supports for special students; and investigating best practices in online instruction.
Digital Devices and 1:1 Computing
One-to-one (1:1) computing initiatives aim to bring about changes in schooling by attempting to leverage the unprecedented power of today’s computers and mobile devices. Such initiatives have become increasingly popular in the EU. There is some research to suggest that the uses of such technologies in classroom may improve student learning outcomes. These initiatives are often premised on the assumption that students have Internet access and that teachers encourage dynamic learning activities. Important considerations regarding 1:1 computing initiatives include: attention to child development; promoting digital citizenship; and various structural and logistical decisions relating to implementation.
Computer Data Systems
Today’s computer data systems provide educators with a range of sophisticated analyses about their students. With this information, educators are better able to address individual student learning needs or to plan activities for groups of students. However, the uses of data systems vary among EU Member States. This is not surprising, since policies and practices relating to data vary from place to place. Important considerations relating to computer data systems include: promoting local dialogue about the future of data use; restructuring local education authorities to support data use; and supporting efforts to improve the flow of data among schools.
Discussion and Recommendations
Although each technology focus area was associated with unique considerations, some trends that emerge across the technologies as an ensemble. First, it is inappropriate to assume that technologies simply and directly determine human behavior. Rather, norms, expectations, and personal experiences all influence how and why technologies are used. Accordingly, future investments in technology should also attend to the social processes around use. Second, recent technological innovations have become increasingly reliant on multiple forms of media to deliver information. However, it is important to note that not all media communicate information with equivalent degrees of richness. Accordingly, there is still much opportunity to design and refine what users experience when attempting to learn using computers. Third, the focus technologies in this brief have all been reliant on the availability of networked communications. It is important to recall, however, that some communities and some socioeconomically disadvantaged students may not have easy access to the Internet. Similarly, the use of computer data systems is premised on local privacy policies and system interoperability. Fourth, it may be valuable to also consider what about education should not change. Life in the digital era is different than in previous decades, and now is the time to reflect about what should not happen with technology. Rather than blindly adopt technologies, research can help uncover productive and counterproductive approaches to technology use.