A Lesson in Education Technology From a Very, Very Old Tradition

In Okinawa, Japan, women have been diving for pearls for more than 2,000 years. Traditionally dressed in only a loincloth, they would dive to depths as deep as 120 feet to find the oysters and mussels that produce pearls. This work was largely done by women because they were better able to endure the cold of the depths they were diving (Women’s bodies distribute fat more evenly then men.) The work was very dangerous, as you might expect, exposing them to predators, harsh environments and shallow water blackouts.

In the 1960s, they were approached by a firm selling scuba gear. The company demonstrated that one person with the right gear could gather as many oysters as an entire village of women in a day. The results were enticing, but they also raised a number of very significant questions including which women would use the gear, and how would the profits be divided. A town counsel was called and everyone discussed the pros and cons of buying scuba gear. In the end, the decision was made reject the use of scuba and continue with their tradition.

Today these Ama Divers, as they are called, still dive for pearls, though largely for the benefit of tourists rather than for the pearls they gather. Even scuba divers couldn’t compete with the advancements in pearl culture, where thousands of oysters could be grown in shallow depths and tricked into growing pearls in a confined area where they could be easily harvested.

So what does this have to do with education? Look just about anywhere in the education industry and you will find wholesale attempts to introduce as much technology into the classroom as quickly as possible. There are even watchdog groups that report on the school boards that are acting the quickest to engage in these technologies. Blog after blog extols the virtues of employing the latest technological masterpiece, while those who are slower are looked down on as archaic and anachronistic. Some of these programs have good empirical data to back them up, many do not. Some programs are developed by wonderful people with altruistic motives, but many are being promoted by new non-profits that are little more than shells for large corporations who stand to make fortunes if their particular technology becomes the new standard.

With all the hype and hyperbole that is flying around right now, it is virtually impossible to find a voice that will ask the tough questions about whether or not these technologies make good sense. Unlike the Japanese Ama Divers, there are few town council meetings to carefully consider what makes sense and what does not. One of the reasons the Common Core standards, good as they may be, are getting such resistance at the grass roots level is because the proponents have A) used a top-down approach, and B) have not been completely forthcoming about who the stakeholders are and who will profit when these technologies are adopted.

Certainly there is nothing wrong with coming up with something new and making a profit on it; it’s the American way. However, using healthy political contributions to get the support of legislators in bellwether states in exchange for support for new programs is certainly less desirable.

This doesn’t mean we need to be reactionary; it just means that we need to examine the new technologies that are introduced, checking the validity of their claims carefully before we purchase them. It also doesn’t mean we need to reject a promising new technology, as the divers did, if that technology can produce better results at a lower cost. What it does mean is that teachers and parents alike should ask the requisite questions to make sure we are getting the best bag for the buck.

Progress and technology are wonderful tools when balanced with careful consideration and forethought. Let’s do the due diligence before we head down a rabbit hole that could take years to escape. It’s our future we are betting on here, and that is certainly worth our full attention.

Technology in the Classroom – Ways to Integrate Educational Technology Into Your Teaching Practice

Here are some technology things that you could do with your students. Not everything may be feasible (i.e. cost factors) or appropriate (i.e. security or privacy issues):

  • some of the things we’re already doing,
  • some of the things we’re thinking of doing, and,
  • some of the things are simply wishful thinking, but great ideas have to start somewhere…

How do you integrate technology into the curriculum? Do you have any ideas to add to the list?

Class Set of Laptops

  • Get a company to donate a class set of laptops when they upgrade their equipment. (The company can receive a charitable donation tax-credit.)
  • Set up a wi-fi hotspot in your classroom so that students can blog online during independent reading and writing workshops.
  • Purchase digital copies of textbooks to have a paperless classroom. Use text-reading software (i.e. Kurzweil) to highlight and take notes in the textbook.

Non-Traditional Reading and Writing

  • Teach students the differences between formal, informal, and colloquial language and explore text messaging, chat rooms, and msn-speak as forms of colloquial language.
  • Evaluate the evolving nature of language and develop word-attack skills by examining how words get accepted into everyday language (or the dictionary). For example, Google is now a commonly used noun and verb.
  • Use text-reading software (i.e. Kurzweil) to allow students to access difficult texts.

Blogging

  • Have students set up personal blogs as a medium to publish their writing portfolios.
  • Explore how Google is a popularity contest. Publish work in an e-zine article directory to understand how to build inbound links. Post comments on other blogs to build inbound links.
  • Explore copyright issues. Publish work in a blog or an e-zine article directory will inevitably end up with your work scraped onto another blog without proper attribution. Explore how that feels and the ethics of using other people’s content without consent.

Computer Safety

  • Discuss cyber-bullying: ways to protect yourself, how to respond when it happens, and how to avoid accidentally cyber-bullying when blogging.
  • Explore computer safety: password strength, viruses, trojans, phishing, etc.
  • Learn about online dangers and ways to protect yourself.

Classroom Website

  • Make hand-outs and homework assignments accessible on a classroom website.
  • Use a secure website as a communication tool for marks for both parents and students.
  • Introduce your students to HTML and web design.

Making Money Online

  • Introduce students to the business of making money online.
  • Explore advertising online – how it works.
  • Fund raise by selling stuff on e-bay.

GPS and Mapping Technology

  • Geo-cache with your students.
  • Use GPS technology or mapping software (i.e. Google Earth) in math class to construct larger geometric shapes. (i.e. construct a circle that has a radius of 5 city blocks.)
  • Apply GPS technology or mapping software in Geography.

The Internet as a Global Village / Community

  • Find a class to pen-pal with and correspond using blogs, email, or IRC chat rooms.
  • Use a wiki for students to synthesize and evaluate knowledge gained in a content-subject like History or Geography. They can track how their understanding of concepts grow. Demonstrate how our understanding of a subject-specific topic evolves over time (i.e. a dynamic and digital KWL chart)
  • Publish student work in English and in their first language online so that relatives overseas can celebrate in their success.

Technology as a Teaching Tool

  • Use a data-projector in class to do modeled and shared readings.
  • Use a data-projector in class to do shared writing: the modern equivalent of flip-chart paper
  • Use dynamic geometry software (i.e. Geometer’s Sketchpad) to explore math concepts.

Music and Technology

  • Buy songs (i.e. itunes) and allow students to DJ their own school dances.
  • Critically examine popular music to determine whether mainstream music is appropriate at a school dance (i.e. Soulja Boy – Crank that)
  • Create your own pod-casts. Students can use free sound-editing software (i.e. audacity) to mix in free sound effects (i.e. ljudo.com) with their digital recordings of their voices.

Class Projects

  • Send an object around the world and invite people who find the object to leave a message online in the classroom blog.
  • Explore the video making process: scripts, recording, editing, post-production
  • Explore YouTube as a medium to publish content.

Reasons to Get a PhD in Educational Leadership Through Educational Technology

Since technology has become part and parcel of our everyday lives, we have accepted its company as though the air we breathe. Similarly in the teaching environment, younger aged students quickly grasp the technical side of technology. They may not actually understand why technology is useful but rather it’s a means by which we live. As it may come as a surprise to many, technology is not exactly the do-all and see-all. Technology as a tool remains a steadfast fact. It does not supersede man unless it’s one of those horror science fiction flicks whereby robots take over the world and make man into their slaves.

In order for a teaching professional to better understand how and when to incorporate technology as part of their profession, obtaining a PhD in Educational Leadership through Educational Technology is a good avenue to look into. As part of this doctorate program, the student is made to understand how modern technology shapes the education process. It also imparts clear statements on what technology represents. Being able to identify the latest in processor chips, memory specifications, smart devices, applications and the likes is just a tip of the iceberg. A student is exposed to the role of technology in education, when to include technology as part of the process and when to abstain. When applying technology into the education process, various types of technology are up for discussion and selection. Manufacturers of hardware and software scramble over one another to convince educational leaders of their superiority and latest advancement.

As part of the coverage in a PhD in Educational Leadership through Educational Technology program, the PhD student learns the principles, aspects and importance of designing a curriculum to better apply education into daily lives. The curriculum may or may not adopt technology as an active participant as conventional pen and paper works better at times. In incorporating technology into the education, care is taken to ensure technology complements the curriculum.

Upon completion of this doctorate programs, many candidates pursue a career at academic institutions of higher level such as colleges and universities. Some opt for consulting positions by providing services to assess an institution’s methods in using technology as a tool for education. Others may join governmental or educational authorities to participate in think tank projects to promote education with technology.