Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Leadership and Technology 2

As mentioned in my last post, the ed tech field is relatively new and has few well-recognized success criteria. This lack leaves the field open in particular to suffering from the Dunning-Kruger effect, where relatively ignorant newcomers can have delusions of grandeur about their own skill level. A relatively trivial or shallow understanding of ed tech can lead some to believe that they are more skilled than they actually are. This attitude can negatively impact student learning and faculty prioritization of professional development. Faculty suffering from the Dunning-Kruger effect can also easily spread misinformation and poor practices to other faculty. Additionally, they may have only a rudimentary understanding of a leader’s communicated vision but believe they have a full understanding of the vision and are implementing it successfully.

Thomas and Patricia Reeves, in their article, “Educational Technology Research in a VUCA World,” produced the following table distinguishing between ed tech research that focuses on the technology rather than on the pedagogy:

Research focused on things is what we do
Research focused on problems is what we should do
  • Learning Analytics
  • Mobile Learning
  • Online Learning
  • 3D Printing
  • Games and Simulations
  • Wearable Technology
  • Clickers and SmartBoards
  • Machine Learning
  • Virtual Assistants
  • Immersive Learning
  • Ineffective teaching
  • Inadequate higher order learning
  • Poor learner motivation
  • Failure to engage
  • Little preparation for real world
  • Lack of intellectual curiosity
  • Undeveloped creativity
  • Weak communication skills
  • Insufficient time-on-task
  • Declining value of degrees

The list on the left, on things that research tends to focus on, is driven more from an IT perspective while the list on the right, on things that the Reeve’s feel research should focus on, is driven more from a teaching perspective. This is an interesting and potentially fruitful discussion for ed tech leaders to be having with faculty. However, by shifting the focus too much to pedagogical concerns, there runs the risk of simplistic 1:1 “solutions” such as statements like “I use Pinterest to engage students,” especially among those who are suffering from the Dunning-Kruger effect. Rather than seeing one research area as less important for research than another area, these two areas should be seen as two sides of the same coin. Thus, specific technologies should not be separated from the problems they are attempting to solve. This view has the further advantage of potentially comparing a variety of technologies and their effects on a single pedagogical problem. This strategy combats the simplistic 1:1 relationship of technology and “solution.” 

Ed tech leadership has an important role to play in promoting this linking of technology with pedagogical problem-solving. By looking at technology interventions as pedagogical problem-solving, leaders can decide on the best approaches to promote based on the available research. York University struck an educational technology advisory group (an example of distributed leadership) which researched the university’s potential direction and settled on a strategy of primarily offering blended learning with some increases in fully online courses. Other schools have implemented a “flipped classroom” strategy, providing the technological architecture to allow faculty to have low barriers of entry to implementing the strategy and robust supports. Promoting a single vision for technology adoption allows the organization to specialize in a particular strategy. That strategy can then be properly resourced with adequate support staff. As well, the pedagogical problems that are addressed by that technology strategy can be properly understood by faculty through professional development.

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