2. Elements of Educational Technology

“Educational technology is the study and ethical practice of facilitating learning and improving performance by creating, using, and managing appropriate technological processes and resources (Januszewski & Molenda, 2008, p. 1).”

The facilitative method of teaching includes creating an environment for students to own their learning process and providing the tools and resources necessary for them to learn new material (Januszewski & Molenda, 2008, p. 4).  It puts the control of learning in the hands of the student and makes the instructor a supporter.

Facilitating was the element that struck me most while reading through the definition of educational technology.  Traditionally, math was taught in a lecture format.  Students listened, took notes, and then when the teacher was done, practiced the skills that were just taught.  This is a shallow way of learning.  The connection of why and when the skill is used outside the math classroom is hardly mentioned or discussed.  Looking at a real life scenario and the math used to solve the situation is going deeper and connecting the learner with the material that is being taught.  Facilitating creates a deeper connection with the learning goals rather than shallow.

Giving students a contextual mathematical problem, I allow the students to figure out how to solve the situation on their own, guiding them with questions and connections.  They can use whatever tools they want and are provided.  From a spreadsheet, graphing calculator, paper-pencil solving, peer help, and/or any method of their choice, they have the opportunity to figure out the issue at hand.  Because they are at liberty to choose the methods, and ask questions, they own the results of their answers and can discuss the decisions they made. They can then see if there are errors that need to be fixed.

Using a facilitating method allows the student to own their learning, which is a key component in facilitating within the educational technology definition.  Allowing students to choose the method that makes the most sense to them, gives them confidence in their work and willingness to try new things.  This form of problem solving is more realistic in the work place than the older lecture format, as there are few jobs that ask to fill in worksheets from a recent lecture.

Another aspect of facilitating is providing the students with appropriate tools to help guide them with their learning.  It is very easy for students to shut down in math.  The subject can be scary for some kids and parents, especially once they get to the more abstract way of thinking, the algebra level and beyond.  Using many different tools can help simmer the frustrations and bring more interest into the classroom. It is my job to make sure we have tools that can be used, weather it be based from the Internet, or something hands-on that the students can use to guide them to a solution.

Right now, I use graphing calculators on a regular basis.  From plotting graphs, looking at tables, using lists to generate solutions, and even some programming to make solution solving easier, students look at many different ways to come up with the same answer.  There are also programs that are based on-line that the students can use while at home practicing.  One tool that is used is generated from the curriculum and so follows it exactly, this makes it easier for the student to comprehend.  Learners also explore programs most computers have, spreadsheet being the most popular.  Beyond technological tools, algebraic skills are also taught.  Providing these tools and teaching how to use these tools allows the students to choose the one that seems to fit them best.  Because there are so many methods, they can connect with one and have ownership in their personal choice.

The responsibility of learning is in the hands of the student when one facilitates.  Providing the tools to guide the students is in the hands of the facilitator.  Using this method creates many more questions from the students.  It is my job to be ready to give more guidance and encouragement, to lead students in the correct direction of their thinking, without simply giving them an answer and stopping their learning process.

Facilitating follows constructivist learning theories.  The student is more active in their learning process (Atherton, 2011).  They do not sit and absorb new material but students explore and investigate.  The student is taking more control of their learning process instead of waiting to be spoon fed.  In the eyes of an education technologist, this is the way to teach weather in a classroom full of kids or on-line teaching through the computer screen.

Resources:
Januszewski, A., & Molenda, M. (2008). Chapter 1: Definition. In Educational technology: A definition with commentary (pp. 1 – 14). NY: Lawrence Erlbaum, Inc.

Atherton J S (2011) Learning and Teaching; Constructivism in learning [On-line: UK] retrieved 16 June 2011 from http://www.learningandteaching.info/learning/constructivism.htm

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