The body of evidence shows that the existence of scalable and sustainable effects from educational changes, innovations, and reforms – technological or otherwise- although frequently assumed remain an unrealized goal within education. – Weston & Bain, 2010, p.9
In the article, “The End of Techno-Critique: The Naked Truth about 1:1 Laptop Initiatives and Educational Change,” the authors present key themes that have emerged from criticism regarding 1:1 laptop initiatives over the last decade based on arguments presented by Larry Cuban (Weston & Bain, 2010). One of the “naked truth” arguments in the article refers to the results from 1:1 initiatives and how these results fall short of the expectations for increased student achievement and better teaching and learning. Another naked truth is that “innovative teaching is the best source for sustainable and scalable achievement gains” (p.7).
Weston and Bain (2010) remind us that other efforts to improve education in the past have also failed to impact teaching and learning and have not resulted in significant effects on student achievement. Similarly, initiatives where students and teachers are provided with laptops and the “access” barrier is removed do not automatically promote innovative teaching. Consequently, there is little evidence of increased student achievement from 1:1 initiatives. Particularly in times of budgetary constraints it seems much easier to blame the innovation for the lack of increased achievement results and then revert to past practices even though the status quo has not proven any impact on student achievement either. What are we missing in all of these efforts? How do we plan and implement scalable and sustainable change?
“When technology enables, empowers, and accelerates a profession’s core transactions, the distinctions between computers and professional practice evaporate” (Weston & Bain, 2010, p.10). What are we doing differently in teaching and learning today with technology that impacts education? Several examples are provided showing how teachers use technology to replace or automate traditional educational practices but struggle to demonstrate uses of technology which enable, empower, and accelerate teaching and learning and assessment. Do educators need to go through a phase of replacement or automation before moving towards more innovative practices? What other interventions are required to support innovative practices that enable, empower and accelerate educational practices?
The authors suggest considering technological tools as cognitive tools, in other words, cognitive tools are seamlessly integrated and necessary for core educational transactions. In using cognitive tools in conjunction with proven research-based practices in teaching and learning and assessment, it is speculated that classrooms will be “differentiated in genuine ways for all students” and that “students, parents and teachers [would] use cognitive tools every day to collaborate about what to do next in their collective pursuit for learning” (Weston & Bain, 2010, p.11). What are the prerequisites for schools contemplating scalable and sustainable initiatives with cognitive tools? What are the components necessary to become a self-organizing school?
1. Develop an explicit set of rules defining beliefs about teaching and learning for the school community (i.e. cooperation, curriculum, feedback, time, etc.).
2. Embed the rules into day-to-day actions and processes of the school (i.e. space, classroom organization, equipment, job descriptions, career paths, salary scales, curriculum documents, classroom practice, performance evaluation, technology, professional development).
3. Clearly articulate roles and responsibilities to ensure all members of the school community are actively engaged in creating, adapting and sustaining the embedded design of the school.
4. Generate real-time, all the time feedback from all members of the school community regarding the embedded design in order to promote ownership and accountability.
5. Develop a dynamic and explicit schema (i.e. a shared conceptual framework for practice) of the interplay of rules, design, collaboration and feedback.
6. Community members demand systemic and ubiquitous use of technology guided by their schema.
Technology alone is not the solution in driving the change that must occur in schools today. However, if we begin to use technology as cognitive tools and combine this with practices necessary for scalable and sustainable change, then we may have a chance in realizing the goal of meeting the educational needs of all students.
Weston, M.E. & Bain, A. (2010). The End of Techno-Critique: The Naked Truth about
1:1 Laptop Initiatives and Educational Change. Journal of Technology, Learning, and
Assessment, 9(6). http://www.jtla.org.