As I work on an instrument to assess an upcoming pilot’s impact on learning, I’m reminded of my long-held position about this (wish I could find the ol’ post) when I’m asked about technology and learning. Instead of trying to measure the impact of technology on learning, I believe we should measure the impact of technology based upon why we brought it into the learning environment.
For example, wikis are usually brought into the classroom to promote collaboration. Therefore, I wouldn’t try to measure the impact of wikis on learning. I’d attempt to measure the impact of wikis on collaboration. Correlation? Causation?
There are certainly flaws here that those interested in research are quickly able to identify. But I recently read Why Tablets Are Important for Educating Our Children and I’m reminded of another flaw: not valuing the simple yet powerful opinion of the teacher.
“It is not what the technology can do that makes it important, it is the way it has reignited passion and ideas in teachers. If these devices are being championed by teachers, listen to what they are saying. These teachers are not just championing the technology, they are celebrating a new way of teaching and learning. Something about these devices has helped many teachers to see the classroom very differently. That should be encouraged, supported and most thoroughly welcomed” (Dan Donahoo)
And this is an issue.
In our efforts to dismiss the qualitative for the quantitative and label anything not research-journal ready as anecdotal, we lose sight of an important thing we should “see”: the human spirit.
While the buzz of new will fade, I don’t want to ever dismiss the value of teachers becoming energized, rejuvenated, and focused on shifting due to a change they embrace.
So as I sit working on our pilot, I’m constantly reminding myself that our stories and observations help us understand. The human spirit helps us understand. The opinions of teachers and students help us understand. To dismiss these for a purely scientific research study deeply rooted in the quantitative is just as narrow-minded as thinking numbers don’t matter.