I believe that educators are charged with facilitating the effective and efficient education of the students with whom we interact. Doing so requires employing tools and practices that give students opportunities for experiences that support learning. The study and practice of educational technology, when implemented in ways that are both practical and purposeful, is a key component in educating the 21st century learner.
When I consider the learning theories that have influenced in my instructional practice, I would say that I employ a mix of Gagne’s Cognitive Behavioral theory, Bandura’s social cognitive theory and some constructivist principles. I believe that students perform best with clear learning objectives, an analysis of the necessary tasks to meet the learning objectives, and instruction and assessment designed to address tasks associated with the learning objectives. We move through the Events of Instruction to build a body of knowledge because I believe that a consistent presentation of objectives, information and assessment helps students anticipate their task the classroom environment. I also believe that observation, what Bandura called “vicarious learning”, is a key to student learning. While students do need to engage in learning through their own actions at some point, modeling promotes self-efficacy in students and gives students a template for specific tasks. I operate under the assumption that students have to learn certain things, but once they have done so, we need to allow them the opportunity to figure out what those things mean in relation to their lives. I think purposeful use of educational technology can give students the chance to explore the impact or non-impact of the learning objectives we work with in school on their lives and the lives of others.
As it relates to educational technology, I believe that tools and strategies that support efficient assessment of student’s existing body of knowledge, self paced learning and review by students, and opportunities for observational learning are effective uses of technology in the classroom setting. I believe that the use of technology can be motivational for students who are performing at various levels. Technology can afford at risk learners the opportunity to work in non linear or non traditional learning environments with copious opportunities for review and gifted learners opportunities for enrichment activities that might not otherwise be part of the whole class scenario. While there are some systemic challenges to the integration of educational technology in many schools, including funding issues, lack of useful educator training and general resistance to change, I believe that if stakeholders commit themselves to meaningful integration as opposed to large scale rollouts of technology, value can and will be added to our student populations. In other words, we have to take a quality over quantity approach to educational technology. Whether schools are limited in hardware and software capacities or if money is no object, the question must always be: how can we best leverage the theory and practice of educational technology to improve the performance of our students?