Technology, Cognitive Tools to Change A School’s Ecology

Pat Bassett, the president of NAIS, refered people to an article recently published in the Journal of Technology Learning and Assessment, "The End of Techno-critique." ( This article presents research into the criticism of 1:1 computing. From the abstract:

This article responds to a generation of techno-criticism in education. It contains a review of the key themes of that criticism. The context of previous efforts to reform education reframes that criticism. Within that context, the question is raised about what schools need to look and be like in order to take advantage of laptop computers and other technology. In doing so, the article presents a vision for self-organizing schools.

I found this article to be consistent with the thoughts and goals that we in the technology department believe should be the reason for technological integration. The conditions for success are what I believe to be the conditions for success for any school wanting to transform and change. This is the type of school I want to learn and teach in. Specifically, from the article:

New Vision

Bransford et al., fix the future of educational technology in cognitive tools that shape and extend human capabilities. Cognitive tools blur the unproductive distinctions that techno-critics make between computers and teaching and learning. When technology enables, empowers, and accelerates a profession’s core transactions, the distinctions between computers and professional practice evaporate.

No equivalents of these technologically enabled transactions – surgery, designing, or forecasting – exist within the prevailing educational
paradigm or 1:1 computing models. What does exist are replacements: books replaced by web pages, paper report cards with student information systems, chalkboards with interactive whiteboards, and filing cabinets with electronic databases. None of these equivalents addresses the core activity of teaching and learning. Each merely automates the practices of the prevailing paradigm (a) non-differentiated large-group instruction, (b) access to information in classrooms, (c) non-engagement of parents, and (d) summative assessment of performance

Realizing the Benefit of Cognitive Tools
The central and prerequisite question here concerns educators and schools capable of sustaining and realizing the benefit of cognitive tools.
How must they differ from the educators and schools that are now struggling with 1:1 computing ? A viable answer to this question will have a least six components.

One, the community comprising the school – students, teachers, school leaders, and parents – must have an explicit set of simple rules that defines what the community believes about teaching and learning. The rules and the process of building consensus about them, assign value to what the community believes (e.g. cooperation, curriculum, feedback, time). The rules are not a mission statement;instead, they are the drivers for the overall design of the school and the schooling that occurs therein.

Two, the school community deliberately and systematically uses its rules to embed its big ideas, values, aspirations, and commitments in the day-to-day actions and processes of the school (e.g., physical space, classroom organization, equipment, job descriptions, career paths, salary scales, curriculum documents, classroom practice, performance evaluation, technology, professional development). Embedded design yields a complete picture, absent of the broad, loosely coupled  brush strokes and sweeping references to “best practice” or “excellence”  that characterize techno-critique and are common in most approaches to educational change, innovation, and reform.

Three, all members at all levels of the school community are fully engaged with creating, adapting, and sustaining the embedded design of the school. Each member is an active agent – not a consumer or provider – in the processes comprising the community’s design. For instance, students have clearly articulated roles, responsibilities, and performance measures instead of expectations for just being good citizens. Each student understands what constitutes effective cooperative and peer-assisted learning and can act skillfully with that knowledge.

Based upon my experience at TEDxNYEd, the question becomes, what must be done to get there. I will be sharing more later.

Posted via email from Vinnie’s posterous

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