Educational Tech: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.

Remember back in the day when cutting edge technology in the classroom meant the commodore 64 or Apple II.  Besides the few bits of commercial software the school would pony up for (Pong wasn’t an educational tool), the students could, with the help of a knowledgeable instructor and a few simple

Computer Basic commands create their own little programs.  Then, everything became more sophisticated.

Computers became more complex and the programming languages more complicated and the IT specialists began to take over programming and development. The result was a whole new world of software.  There was no longer any need for teachers or students to experiment with their own programs because there were applications out there that could let them do just about anything on a computer.  Forget the concatenation of every 5th number or coding the area of a circle, now students could write and produce their own newspapers and create a life survival activity in virtual reality.  Of course everything changed.

64 kb (remember kilobytes) of memory gave way to 512 Kb, then on to 32mb (megabytes being equal to 1024 kilobytes) then 64 Gb (Gigabytes being 1024 megabytes). Now,  Tb, terabytes of memory are common in hardrives (that’s 1024 megabytes per terabyte) and, it doesn’t stop there as the world moves on to petabytes, exabytes and zettabytes then to “infinity and beyond”.  Well, anyway, that’s how it seems.

Today’s sophisticated computers, while getting more sophisticated and more powerful by the day, are simpler to operate.  They can be easily carried around and worked on in the form of Ipads and other tablets, or just stored in your pocket until you need to look up something on your mobile smart phone.

If you have a particular need, well, there’s an app for that.  It can be downloaded to your phone or your tablet often at minimal cost, “say, wasn’t that $25 program costing around $1000 a few years back?” So it is, that anyone who has a tablet or IPhone can access any number of apps to suit just about any purpose from finding the nearest coffee shop to putting together a sophisticated movie complete with soundtrack and special effects. So, where does that place the education world?

As always, playing catch up, but even on the cusp of technological advance, educators and educational systems are beginning to take notice.  This brings us to SAMR and “Padagogy (not a spelling mistake but a witty pun on IPad and learning).

 

The SAMR Model provides a way of evaluating and understanding the functionality of apps.  The SAMR scale serves as a useful tool for educators interested in incorporating the current technology into their teaching.  It basically categorizes the various applications into four groups based on the role the app plays within an educational framework, hence the name SAMR.

As everyone in education knows, the plethora of proposals, projects, and undertakings, has led to an even greater plethora of acronyms. SAMR is one of these. The initials indicated the levels in a hierarchy of computer application functionality.  The S stands for Substitution the first and lowest level on the SAMR scale.  These are the apps that simply replace other tools with no functional change. This could entail substituting word processer program for pencil and paper or substituting one writing program for another.

The next level indicated by the A, standing for Augmentation refers to a more complex aspect of substitution.  A program may replace another because it adds valuable increased functionality perhaps auto saving, auto syncing with other computers (so that, if desired, the teacher can see the work develop) or sharing in the cloud.

These two levels simply provide enhancements for what already exists and has been traditionally used, whether it be moving from scribbler to screen or from Microsoft Word to Google Docs. The next two levels are the transformative levels.  Technology usage moves into an area of learning and teaching where it becomes essential to the process.

The M, or Modification level adds this dimension. This level sees the applications being used to design more specialized and technologically interactive actions.  Cross platform and web based collaboration, clickers for quizzes, email or written material converted to audio for sharing.  As the experts say, this level allows for significant task design.

The top level is the R, Redefinition level.  At this level, the technology and the activities are codependent.  An example would be creating a sophisticated class video using a movie program,  In this case, one or two simple apps can replace a movie studio and produce high end outcome.

 

 

Here’s one of a number of similar graphic views of the SAMR Model taken from the Educational Technology and Mobile Learning Website at: http://www.educatorstechnology.com/2013/08/samr-model-explained-through-examples.html

 

For more specific detail, take a look at the “Padagogy Wheel” and download the poster from the Inter-Tech Education blog at: http://intertecheducation.edublogs.org/2013/05/25/pedagogy-wheel-for-ipads-in-education/

 

This is pretty good stuff, but if you’re getting on board, better hurry, because the stuff that’s on its way in the wonderful world of technology will blow your socks off.  In fact, it’s coming so quickly it might just blow your sandals off. However if you felt a little nostalgic remembering Commodores and Apple IIs, be aware that there are some new kids on the block that are poised to return educational technology back into the hands of the students and the teachers in the classrooms.  Arduino, Beaglebone, Raspberry Pi, MakeyMakey, all names the more tech savvy are familiar with, are devices with educational potential.  Raspberry Pi, for example, is a microcontroller the size of a credit card that has many of the capabilities of a traditional computer that is both user friendly and user functional. Along with Makey Makey, a device that can turn bananas or almost anything else into computer keys, Raspberry Pi can open up a whole new world of computer creativity.  The best part is the price.  The basic Raspberry Pi costs around $45 and works fine with that old USB monitor, mouse and Keyboard that are lying around after the computer they came with has long since bit the proverbial dust.

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