Mrs. Mansfield's Middle Ground

Mrs. Mansfield’s Tech Plan



Our society is in the process of rapid change. In particular the ways that we share and communicate information and the amount of information available to the average citizen has changed more in the last few decades than in the entire 19th century.  As a result, educators have been faced with the dilemma of how to implement change in schools while maintaining effective instructional methods.

Although some people will argue that today’s students are different, I argue that today’s world is different, particularly in developed countries. The basic human condition has not changed. Given a stimulating, safe environment and fulfillment of their basic needs, most people are naturally curious and eager to learn if the curriculum and the manner in which it is presented is challenging, relevant, and engaging.  As a result, society must not only respond in terms of instruction at the classroom or individual level but also in terms of how we view the structure and purpose of schools.

What is a school?  What is its purpose? Who does it serve? How can we promote equity and excellence in education? How can technology be a means toward these ends?  These have been and continue to be important questions, especially in light of our changing society.  While the questions remain the same, the answers have changed.  I believe that the information age offers wonderful possibilities for education and that the manner in which we recognize and embrace such possibilities, or fail to do so, has serious implications for either closing or broadening the achievement gap.

The promise of technology ranges from information access to assistive technology.  Since its inception in the early 1990s, the Internet has become a powerful and invaluable resource just waiting to be harnessed.  Information is no longer locked away in ivory halls accessible only to the elite.  The Internet provides access for those whose location, poverty or physical conditions impede access to traditional libraries and resources such as museums.  In addition, the Internet provides access to the expertise and perspective of colleagues, peers, and experts around the world for the purpose of inquiry or collaboration.  Simulations and other applications also allow access to information that may be difficult to visualize or conceptualize.  Finally, but not all-inclusively, assistive technology can help compensate for natural differences or disabilities, such as learning disabilities or physical impairments.

My vision for technology in education will require the rethinking of traditional instructional methods and teacher preparation programs.  Technology presents two great dangers: the first danger is that technology will widen the gap between those who have and those who have not, and the second danger is that technology will not promote rigor and relationships but instead become “the great distracter.”  In fact, I suspect that many negative attitudes about technology in education are the result of technology used in inappropriate or ineffective ways.  

When technology is used in ways that do not promote higher achievement, it becomes another time-eater, to coin a phrase.  For example, when children word process text that has already been hand-written, strictly for the purpose of presentation, teacher convenience, or the use of the spell-check feature, it is a time-eater. It is not significantly supporting or increasing the child’s learning, but it is consuming precious instructional time that would be better spent on a number of alternatives.  Likewise, technology that further isolates and separates learners from each other or the world can only be counter-productive given the trend toward globalization.  In response to these concerns, a number of organizations have issued statements and/or drafted plans that provide guidelines for the use of technology in education.  These include the State of Michigan, the International Society for Technology in Education.

My vision for technology in education is that of the rising tide that lifts all boats.  Teachers must envision themselves as facilitators and coordinators of learning.  They must develop knowledge related to the specific learners that they teach, their developmental levels, interests, and concerns and then tailor the mandated curriculum in ways that allow learners to understand its relevance to their lives.  Teachers must envision how technology can support such goals, increase learning or provide access to expertise and resources that are not available in the traditional brick and mortar classroom.  Teachers must imagine a brighter future for the world and then envision ways in which they can inspire and empower students with the skills, knowledge, and dispositions necessary to manifest those changes in society. Finally, teacher preparation programs must equip teachers with the means to do so.

We are living in times of great change.  Technology is the key factor influencing that change.  By making intentional choices about how to use technology today, we can influence the world of tomorrow.

Classroom Uses of Technology

Moving Forward with Technology