NORMAN — Classroom technology can be a powerful tool for education — but only when it's used properly, a Canadian education innovator said Tuesday.
The trouble is that technology has developed so quickly that most education systems haven't been able to keep up, Michael Fullan told a crowd at the University of Oklahoma.
“We've pretty much bottomed out in the existing system,” Fullan said.
Fullan is a special adviser to the premier and minister of education in Ontario. He is also a professor emeritus at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto. He spoke at OU on Tuesday as a part of the Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education's Cathey Simmons Humphreys Distinguished Education Lecture Series.
In addition to his work in Ontario, Fullan serves as an adviser to education leaders worldwide, including the United Kingdom, Australia and across the U.S. He is also the author of several books dealing with education reform.
Technology is seductive and almost irresistible in classroom instruction, Fullan said. While it can be an effective tool, he said, too many educational systems of all sizes approach it as something to buy rather than something to integrate into the learning process.
Technology by itself shouldn't drive change, Fullan said. But it does have a powerful role to play in the classroom. It can help teachers engage students more effectively, he said. It also can allow them to teach their subjects more quickly, more cheaply and in greater depth than they have ever before.
In some ways, he said, the rapid development of technology has changed the dynamic between teacher and student. In the past, educators tended to resist new technology, at least in part because of worries about seeming awkward in the face of something new. In the past, when a teacher had trouble operating a new piece of equipment, it made students uncomfortable, he said.
Now, he said, technology is developing quickly enough that most people regularly encounter a cellphone app or computer program that they haven't seen before.
“It's no longer a stigma,” he said.
That shift has led some teachers to put students in charge of classroom technology through programs like one-to-one laptops. Meanwhile, the teacher remains in charge of instruction.
Education leaders are still trying to find a good working relationship between technology and instruction, Fullan said. Whatever that solution is, he said, classroom technology must be part of a clear, focused plan for the educational system, whether that system is an individual district or an entire state or province.
Without any kind of direction, he said, classroom technology is simply a tool without a reason for existing.
“A fool with a tool is still a fool,” he said. “And a fool with a powerful tool is actually dangerous.”