What’s wrong with evidence-informed technology integration?

What’s wrong with evidence-informed technology integration?

Technology integration and technology use in education has been, and always will be, under immense scrutiny when it comes to determining its impact on student outcomes. With so many schools filled with a wide variety of devices and software, I can’t help but wonder how many of those school leaders really considered the impact that their new-found technology would have on their learners.

As a learning technologist and an advocate for technology use, I love technology. I love the affordances of technology and the tools they provide to help enhance my teaching. I’ve spent the past six years or so championing the use of mobile devices and 1:1 programmes, talking about engagement and creativity. While there is value to this excitement, the spotlight is shining brightly on evidence-informed practice and quite frankly ‘engagement and creativity’ just doesn’t seem to be enough anymore. Many would argue that it never really was.

So what’s wrong with evidence-informed technology integration? Well, absolutely nothing of course. As I reread Louise Stoll’s recent piece in the Chartered College of Teaching magazine ‘Impact’, I’m reminded of the many educators who, like myself, face a number of challenges when embracing research. As my ‘wrong journey’ continues, I now hold up a mirror to my own beliefs and approach to practice.

Exploring evidence-informed practice through various lenses

Considering our own biases

How many of us just believe that certain classroom ideologies work? How many of us are open to changing, reflecting on or even reconsidering our fundamental beliefs when it comes to pedagogy? I’m not just talking about changing some strategies to improve learning or outcomes, I mean changing our core beliefs? David Didau tells us ‘not to trust our gut’, that we have to consider that just because we ‘see’ learning happening, it doesn’t mean it actually is,

“In order to escape some of the grossest errors of judgement, we must mistrust the illusion of certainly and seek to avoid entirely predictable cognitive bias”

— David Didau

Here lies one of our greatest challenges. After all the investment, time and financial, are we prepared to except that our approach to technology integration is wrong? What might be the fallout of our discoveries? Am I, a self-proclaimed advocate for technology, prepared to address my own discrepancies without bias?

The needle in the haystack

Making those discoveries is also a challenge in itself. Quality research in technology education and integration is difficult to find. I recall the painstaking efforts to find quality data for my Masters degree dissertation. Ultimately, the best research focused on learning itself, which shouldn’t be much of a surprise – technology was always the footnote. But that can no longer be the case. Educators need access to quality research and data on how technology impacts on learning. Schools need access to quality data to ensure that they are investing wisely, not just in physical hardware but in the professional development of those educators that are required to use it.

Building a network

Sharing my experience of coding in the curriculum, Denmark 2017

I’ve recently returned from Denmark where I was fortunate enough to work alongside Apple and my peers from schools across Europe. I discovered that we all experience the same challenges. We’re all accountable to our schools to ensure that the investment in technology integration pays off. More importantly we’re accountable to our students and their progress. Stoll explains that another challenge when moving towards evidence-informed practice is that we often try to do this in isolation.

Being part of a community that aims to inspire learners and move them forward through technology use is incredibly powerful. Since being accepted to join the Apple Distinguished Educator community in 2013 I have had the opportunity to share and learn about technology integration with incredible educators from across the world. It has been a delight to discuss and share our experience of best practice in the classroom via a range of devices and platforms.

What’s missing?

Despite all of our access to technology, best practice about technology integration is still in its infancy. So what’s missing?

  • Access to quality research in technology integration is in high demand
  • Schools need a clear strategy for integrating technology, as well as evaluating its impact
  • Specialist educators and leaders responsible for technology integration need access to a community of learners with similar expertise and interest in research enquiry and knowledge curation

This list just scratches the surface as to how we can make better use of research in this field. This highlights the need for current experts and specialists to actually undertake the research – easier said than done! I’m sure the debate and concerns surrounding evidence-informed practice in technology integration is far from over. I for one am excited to be part of that discussion.

David Didau, ‘What if everything you knew about education was wrong?’, pages 7-107

Louise Stoll, ‘Five challenges in moving forward in evidence-informed practice’, ‘Impact’, The Chartered College of Teaching, pages 11-13

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