Exploring the assumptions underlying learning technologies

Teachers don’t always find it easy to analyse the assumptions about learning that underpin specific examples of learning technology. A simple scenario can be used in a professional development setting as a trigger for discussion of these assumptions and the links between technology and education theory.

In my professional development work with teachers, I love seeing them learn how to use the new tools and develop an enthusiasm for using these tools with learners. But skills and enthusiasm are not quite enough – to decide how and when to integrate technology tools, teachers also need to be able to understand the educational models on which the technology is based.

Even when a teacher ‘knows’ some education theory, it is not always easy for them to integrate theory and practice. So the theory often remains as ‘book learning’ and doesn’t fully inform their decision-making about planning and using technology.

I recently developed a simple scenario as an attempt to deal with this:

I incorporated the scenario into the session and used it to generate discussion around a few simple questions. On their own, the small groups touched on a few links to education theory, but the payoff came when reporting back – as a group, we identified lots of ideas about the sorts of assumptions about learning and the links with theory.

The fact that it was only a scenario and not hands-on I believe helped the participants because there was no ‘seduction’ factor – there was no possibility of being distracted by the technology and the fun of exploring its features. And it reinforced the concept that every application of technology in learning is based on implicit assumptions and theories about learning, and that informed teachers can make these explicit through dialogue and collaboration.

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