On Sunday March 22, 2015, I attended a session at the ECIS Ed Tech 2015 Conference entitled “Thinking More Deeply about the Role of Technology in the IB Programs“. The speakers were Pilar Quezzaire from the IBO, Alan Preis from the International School of Atlanta, and Nick Kwan from the American School of Warsaw.
I have spent the last two years of my life immersed in learning and coaching in the Coetail (Certificate of Educational Technology and Information Literacy) post-graduate program. Within Coetail, we’ve looked at the SAMR and TPACK models for educational technology integration. We’ve looked at ISTE for Ed Tech standards.
There was very little formal focus on how to integrate all of this into the “preferred pedagogies of the IB …constructivist, inquiry-based, and authentically-assessed” (The Role of Technology in the IB Programmes, Pre-Publication p. 20). Currently speaking, the IB programs of study are popular for International Schools to adopt. Coetail, for the most part, is a professional development program for international educators around the world. So by default, most of our interactions during Coetail were centered around the IB programs because IB teachers make up the study cohorts. There were lots of informal discussions about how Ed Tech integration would fit into the IB context. I have wondered for a long time what the IB, as an organization, would formally ask from us. This workshop would certainly enlighten me.
In typical IB fashion, the new “Role of Technology in the IB Programs” document provides us with yet another set of new terminologies (bolded in green in this blogpost) to learn and work with. The new terminologies serve to illuminate and focus us on how Ed Tech integration might fit into our program of studies—-hopefully helping us in our planning and evaluation of new learning engagements.
I found the new terms enlightening as to the IB’s beliefs about Ed Tech integration. I found the new terminologies relevant to and in agreement with all that I’ve learned during my Coetail studies. During the workshop, I appreciated the opportunity to interact with representatives of the IBO and fellow teachers about these concepts, thus solidifying my own understanding of what it all means.
Integration vs. Implementation is a question about depth
Foremost, the point of the session was to discuss how we might think more deeply about the role of technology. Discussions about tech in schools seem to first revolve around what devices or computers we should buy. After that, the discussion becomes what “apps” might do what and we’re swapping an app for something we already do in the past, plus maybe a few extra bells and whistles. We haven’t really broadened ourselves as educators. Our classroom and our ways of teaching haven’t really changed. This makes for a very expensive “pencil” when a computer or device is essentially replacing already familiar ways of “doing” in the classroom.
Start with the Learning
Just like in Coetail, the IB wants us to start with the question, “What is the learning?”. Then we need to plan for the learning. The plan for the learning should drive the question of what hardware and software. Not the other way around. We wouldn’t want our curriculum to be driven by transitory things like what devices we’ve bought and what apps they support. The devices and apps will be obsolete in a few years time. The learning we want for our students should last for a lifetime.
During the session, this importance was discussed when we differentiated the Integration of Technology from the Implementation of Technology i.e. hardware & software (ibid p.14). The integration of technology should always drive the implementation of technology and not the other way around. This is something that we’ve always discussed as part of Coetail.
Further than this first point, I’ve decided that a good way for me to explain my learning from the session is to explain the new terminologies as I understand them and to draw connections between them and concepts from the PYP that I’m already acquainted with.
New terms make us see familiar concepts in a new light
Technology Literacy– I discovered during the session that Technology Literacy is the overall aim of the IB programs (ibid p.5). So, I found it interesting that technology can be considered a literacy. Traditionally, literacy is “reading, writing, listening, speaking, and viewing”. Does the use of technology really change the way that we read, write, listen, speak and view—- such that we need a new category for these “new” skills? We never said so during Coetail. The literacy we talked about was “information literacy” and especially since the “i” and “l” in Coetail stand for “information literacy”. In creating the term “technology literacy”, the IB implies is that it is different from traditional literacy and enough to deserve a category of its own. Also, if our aim is technology literacy than this would be difficult to foster if any devices, pedagogies are avoided, [banned,] or over-emphasized (ibid p. 16). I would add “platform” as something that we can’t avoid or over-emphasize, as well. Literacy implies the ability to adapt and to integrate new forms too.
The point that Technology is a literacy and therefore includes the ability to adapt to new forms —-opens up a wider discussion than just how to use tech to teach the traditional literacies. I eagerly look forward to hearing the IB’s “take” on the ethics of banning certain devices from classrooms; banning students’ access to certain websites, apps, softwares; and the appropriateness or not of aligning ourselves to one tech company to the eschewment of another (i.e. Are you an Apple or a Google classroom?). If the IB, who already values multi-lingualism, believes that technology is a literacy—-than that leaves little ambiguity on what they might feel about all of this.
Exploring, Employing, Evaluation (EEE)
Exploring, Employing, Evaluation– Exploring, Employing, Evaluation (EEE) are the new terms for the classroom for considering the integration of technology in the curriculum. They have parallels in existing IB terminology. See the chart below.
Exploring– Exploring is the parallel of Inquiry in the IB and is the written curriculum. This is when teachers and students explicitly consider the impact and affect of technology onto their designs for teaching, inquiring, and learning.
Employing– Employing is the parallel of Action in the IB and is the taught curriculum. This is when teachers and students explicitly consider what technology to use to reach their learning aims.
Evaluation– Evaluation is the parallel of Reflection in the IB and is the assessed curriculum. This is when teachers and students explicitly consider the skills they need to use technology and their effectiveness of their use of technology in reaching their learning aims.
My Thoughts about EEE
In the IB document and in the presentation slides, these three things seem to be mainly directed to the role of educators. It is myself that inserted the word, “students” in the above definitions. In my Coetail studies, we discussed that a sign of classroom maturity in technology-use is that students themselves take on the role of exploring how they might want to use tech to solve a problem, what devices they might choose, and then they evaluate their use of it. The questions of exploring, employing, and evaluation are taken out of the hands of the teacher and put into the hands of the students. Of course, this implies a highly “technology literate” community of learners. The classroom would then become a place where we would see multiple types of devices being employed and a myriad of apps being chosen and the choosing of both was done by the students.
Agency, Information, Design (AID)
Besides Exploring, Employing, and Evaluation (EEE); there is another set of new “triplets” birthed by the new IB document. They are “Agency, Information, and Design (AID)”. These are concepts that should be considered during school planning to foster Technology Literacy (ibid p.11).
Agency– Agency describes “ways of being” with technology. It answers questions about who we want to be after our learning. Agency has to do with digital citizenship, academic honesty, risk-takers, experimenters, creators, innovators, designers, programmers etc.
Information– Information describes “ways of knowing” with technology. It answers questions about what information we need and how to get it. Information has to do with internet searching, evaluation of internet sources, critical thinking regarding content, organizing of content etc.
Design– Design describes “ways of doing” with technology. It answers questions about our plans and what we want to execute with technology (ibid p.11). Design has to do with telling, explaining, showing, making, creating, computer programming etc.
My thoughts about AID
At this point, I am not altogether clear what delineates the EEE from the AID. Why are there six new terms but in two separate blocks? There seems to be some overlap, too. This is a question that I will further explore. Below is what I understand, thus far.
Summary: Authentic Tech Integration
Overall, the mission and aims of the new IB document, “Thinking More Deeply about the Role of Technology in the IB Programmes” is the same as Coetail’s: authentic educational technology integration.
Authentic education technology integration as the ability to discern when and how to integrate technology, and is evidenced by the ability to articulate why technology is fit for the purpose.
If we can’t articulate this, there really isn’t any compulsion to use technology. Technology-use for the sake of technology-use does not necessarily lead to better engagement or learning outcomes. Many times, the old fashioned “analog” ways are still better suited. I remember attending a technology maker-faire event. There were a myriad of stations for students to employ technology to create and to learn computer programming skills along the way. I offered a station that offered the “Makey-Makey” and the Scratch programming website to create music with. I also offered a second station where students played a card game to practice programming skills. Surprisingly to me, the crowd around the card game was huge. The “old ways” of learning were a “new way” of learning for these digital natives.
It’s All about the
This brings us back to the start of my discussion. The driving question needs to be, “What is the Learning?” As educators, we need to consider all the colours in our palette and to be discerning about what we choose and how we use it. Technology is only one of the colours in our palette. It need not be prioritized as the medium for learning, but it definitely should not be avoided nor discounted.
We, as teachers, need to stay “learners”. There is a huge learning curve in technology and every couple of years, there is a new ed tech learning curve to get onboard with (My most recent investigation is integrating computer coding in the primary curriculum and I would do it through the subject of Music.) This means we’ll never know it all. There shouldn’t be any judgement about where individual teachers are along the SAMR, TPACK continuums because we were all beginners at one point and we’ll be beginners again along some new ed tech curve in a few years. The important thing is that we should all be willing to explore and to take the next “baby-step”. In other words, it is the attitude of the teacher and his/her mindset that is more important than any set of knowledge or skills he/she might possess at any one moment.
AID can aid
The new frameworks or lenses of EEE and AID from the IBO definitely give us, as IB educators, new handles with which to engage with and debate about technology integration.
Watch the video about the AID lens with your school. Go through the planning scenario exercise, using the AID lens as we did during the workshop portion of the session. I’m sure the IBO would appreciate feedback on what you think. There is link to their survey on the planning scenario exercise document. This will help them develop and create the final document. I would also love to hear in the comments section, below.
What do you think?
*This blogpost is an embellished form of a paper I submitted to SUNY for credits towards my M.S. (EDU 594–Advanced Issues of International Education for International Schools).