As schools make the move to a digital classroom there is a lot at stake. There also exists a complex situation where many different types of classroom research converge upon implimentation. Schools often look to the SAMR model created by Dr. Ruben Puentedura for some guidance because they want the technology to redefine the education process. This model is the cornerstone to understanding the process of moving from classroom technology being something that substitutes for what we already can do, to the type of tool that transforms education. Schools that integrate technology sometimes become disenchanted by the process. After a few months the new wears off and the new equipment doesn't seem to have any added value. Teachers then put it aside and speak to all of the distractions that it has created for them.
Pure and simple, schools struggle to get past the Augmentation phase of the SAMR model. It is past this phase where the technology actually becomes valuable to the education process, but there seems to be a wall right in the center of this model. It is at the point where the things being done in the classroom could not have been done without technology. In order to get past this barrier we need to understand some other key forces at work when implementing a large scale technology plan.
Gartner Inc. has created something called the Hype Cycle. The Hype Cycle helps us to discern all of the hype around the implementation of new technology. It is designed to give us a "view of how a technology or application will evolve over time, providing a sound source of insight to manage its deployment within the context of your specific business goals." (More Here) The model essentially starts with a "Technology Trigger", and I believe that most schools are at this point. We are only years away from technology being a dominate force in the classroom. Once the trigger has been pressed you have a period of inflated expectations as stakeholders become very excited about what the technology can do for your school. Those expectations are usually abruptly moved to a period of disillusionment as things don't seem to be moving the way we imagined in our head. From there we have a period of enlightenment and eventually a plateau of productivity. When you line the Hype Cycle on top of the SAMR Model, you begin to see why so many schools have a difficult time moving past the Augmentation phase.
In the early going, administrators, and school staff are excited by the technology. They have very little problem substituting it for things they already do in the classroom. They become very excited about what the technology can do and they begin to augment their instruction with applications while using internet resources. At first the impact is significant because there is an immediate increase of engagement occurring. As these processes are beginning, teachers then realize the need for pre-requisite skills to be taught, lesson plans become more complicated and the early results are less that enticing. Students will become distracted by the technology because they are still using it as a consumer product, and the connection has not yet been made to the electronic device becoming a creative tool for critical thinking. This causes many teachers to abandon the technology, leaving administrators that still believe in the system to struggle to find the buy in needed to innovate in the classroom.
There are other forces at work as well. Integrating technology in the classroom is tricky because of the before mentioned pre-requisite skills. Not only by the teacher, but also by the student. We make a common mistake of believing that students already have all the technology skills to perform with it in the classroom. It simply isn't true. In most of our past educational experiences, we can think of a time where we were given a 30 minute lesson on how to fill out a bubble sheet test. Technology needs the same attention as we give to the number two pencil, coloring inside the lines. It is because of these missing pre-requisites that most teachers given new technology become like first year teachers again. In 1990 the California Department of Education published research on the Phases of first-year teachers and their attitude towards teaching. I believe this model can be applied to the classroom attitudes towards technology. Not only by the teacher, but also by the students in many cases.
At first, just as with the Hype Cycle there is extreme excitement over the anticipation of teaching and learning with the new devices. That quickly turns to survival as the pre-requisite knowledge starts to become an factor in using them. Teachers are having to plan differently, learn new apps, dissever new lesson plans and before long they are in a period of disillusionment. Students are learning new classroom procedures, coping with an open world of information and in general just trying to find ways to remain as productive as they were prior to the technology. In most cases, the students begin to rapidly lose interest in the new technology because in these early phases it operates just like a text book and paper. It doesn't allow them to be more creative, it represents exactly the same education they were already getting with much of the same results. Students become disillusioned because they want this device to be their Magic Mystery Box. They want to use it to become creative and build things of value to offer the world. In the early days the box is opened and it becomes just another thing they have to deal with.
There is some great news at the end of this story of struggle however. The teacher that sticks with it finds rewards in the end. All of these pieces of research predict it. In the later phases of the SAMR model the technology does things for the classroom that were impossible without it. I have seen this in some of the schools I visit on a regular basis. They do things in these schools that are not possible without technology. I have visited schools before where students are engaged in activities that are so advanced, being creative is just a way of life. The Hype Cycle tells us that eventually classrooms will make it to the Slope of Enlightenment that leads to the Plateau of Productivity. It is at these phases, after all of the bumps in the road have been dealt with that understating occurs. Teachers know how to use the technology to the best of their ability and students are starting to use it for moving beyond the 20th century. And finally when we look at the Phases of First Year Teachers' we see that hard work starts to rejuvenate the teacher. They are able to reflect on their past efforts and usually are in anticipation of becoming more productive in the technology classroom.
So the lesson is, stick with it.