Teachers unions release study on technology in the classroom

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Jun 29, 2008

According to eSchool News, a June 10th report released by the two teachers’ unions, the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), show that after a decade of investment in technology, teachers still don’t feel comfortable incorporating it into their lesson plans.

Although educators have plenty of access to computers and the Internet and teachers use it quite a bit for administrative tasks, they don’t believe they have the proper training and support to use it for instructional purposes. There are also some complaints, particularly in urban areas, that the computers are outdated or there are not enough of them.

The fact that technology is not widely used in instruction of course is not news. Larry Cuban has documented this. The NEA/AFT study confirms what our book says as well.

We are certainly on the same page as the NEA and AFT presidents when they say that technology must play a much bigger role in our schools. Computer-based learning has the potential to provide students with a student-centric learning experience that is customized for the ways in which they learn and would be far more intrinsically motivating as a result.

Although lack of training or insufficient technology may be problems, the real problem is in the mindset over where technology should be used and how.

The lessons from our studies of innovation are that if you want an innovation to transform a market, you can’t implement it by cramming it into the mainstream of an organization. That organization will always co-opt the technology into its existing processes to just do what it does better.

Hence, teachers use technology to improve their ability to do administrative tasks. Implementing technology to carry out instruction, however, doesn’t fit the mold so easily. After all, we couldn’t expect a teacher to say, “Children, today is a great day because have this computer that will deliver the instruction, and you don’t need me for my lesson plans anymore.” It’s simply implausible.

On the other hand, if you look at places where there aren’t course offerings—such as for credit recovery programs and in alternative schools—technology is making a big impact and transforming schooling. Just keep your eye outside the mainstream, and you’ll see something very different—and very exciting—happening.

– Michael Horn

Michael is a co-founder and distinguished fellow at the Clayton Christensen Institute. He currently works as a principal consultant for Entangled Solutions.