TechnoTeaching: Taking Practice to the Next Level in a Digital World
reviewed by Caroline R. Pryor - March 06, 2015
Title: TechnoTeaching: Taking Practice to the Next Level in a Digital World
Author(s): Julie M. Wood & Nicole Ponsford
Publisher: Harvard University Press, Cambridge
ISBN: 1612506798, Pages: 216, Year: 2014
Search for book at Amazon.com
The 2014 book TechnoTeaching is a refreshing and much needed text. As a social studies professorwhose engagement in her work centers less on ideas for practical applications than investigating theoretical rationales that underlie how particular pedagogies might foster democratic thoughtI hesitated to embrace the enthusiasm found in TechnoTeaching. Early in the books introduction, the authors recognize that the process of acquiring new technical skills can be intimidating, and at times may seem unproductive. Teachers often resist that which appears to be time intensive to learnor they believe might not provide immediate, user-friendly, or content-rich results for their effort (Pryor & Bitter, 2008). Yet, the authors of this text tenaciously urge the reader on a path from TechNo to TechYes. After reading this book, I havealbeit reluctantlyjoined the ranks of those who better understand technology, both as a tool and as a framework for communication.
This book is written so clearly that the authors case for embracing technology and use of portals (such as apps, websites, or blogs) encourage even the less convinced among us to learn to use them. The practical tips and detailed explanation of steps to using these portals provides a non-threatening path, encourages the refinement of current technology skills, and suggests strategies for expanding them.
This book poses two questions. First, will teachers use technology to span global interconnectedness and understandings? And secondly, will teachers take steps to enhance their technology skills for use in future lessons? Teachers do appear to use social media on a personal level (Sumuer, Sezin & Yildirim, 2014); however, as they gain technological tips about the vast array of applications, will they use interactive sites to deepen their students content domain area knowledge and skills? TechnoTeaching is an excellent guide to attaining these elusive goals.
This book offers seven chapters ranging from the more theoretical integration of technology with best practices for teaching and learning (p. 3) to practical chapters on how to plan lessons. The authors are commended for recognizing that technology serves a purpose beyond mere tools of convenience; rather, they write that as teachers develop various levels of skill in planning for their students, technology can become a methodology for linking standards to curricular goals. Broadly, the book helps to answer the following questions:
How can I transform my use of technology from an enemy into a friend (pp. vii)?
How can I enhance student learning, thinking, and language arts skills and cast these in the arena of Common Core State Standards (CCSS)?
How can I help students develop the deep disciplinary knowledge needed for problem-based learning and thinking?
How can I use technology to develop lessons in which I use standards and assessments that promote CCSS?
How can I integrate technology that is available and important to students into my lessons?
How can I learn to negotiate subject matter using various media?
Three teacher archetypes are presented throughout the bookbenchmarks to portray how real teachers might progress in their path to learning about the use of technology. At varying levels of knowledge, these archetypes model the often uncertain progress in the journey to TechnoTeaching. To highlight key points of the hypothetical teachers learning path, the text provides sidebar notes with helpful tips and advice to guide technical skill development and offers suggestions for integrating these skills into lessons.
The authors proffer three potential barriers they believe are lacking in teachers dispositions towards technology use: (a) skills and tools, (b) content, and (c) mindset. However, these three dispositions are not substantiated with references to the literature. Moreover, the descriptions of the teacher archetypes appear exaggerated; however, the overreaching descriptions are well compensated for by the insightful, detailed plan for self-analysis. The self-assessment plan is also augmented with suggestions to help teachers identify the development of their skills and knowledge.
The section on writing a grant proposal appears slightly disconnected from this otherwise helpful book, and the written narrative of the section is also questionable. For example, the authors suggest that teachers ask for more than you need (why? budgets require a justification) and be positive, patient and calm (but how does this help a grant writer?). Perhaps this was just an add-on to attract readers.
The text is easy to read and attractive to those seeking advice on enhancing their use of technology in the classroom. The Branching Out: Connecting Locally and Globally chapter is a highlight of the book. Here, teachers receive guidance on how to begin a broader journey to using media to connect globally. Notable is the description of Harvards Project Zero, in which media users gain a stronger sense of how place, self, people, and objects of the world become visible through the use of technology (pp. 131147). The authors provide tips on using social media, networks, and global communities to foster a virtual community of teaching practice. Moreover, they explain the importance of this practice by discussing how media can promote sensitivity, understanding, and self-representation. As James Mitchell (in press) writes:
Those who grew up before the rise of social media communicated with their peers differently than do todays P-12 learners. The modalities of teaching citizenship have changed since Myspace, Facebook and the other forms of social media have evolved, and teachers and parents have not kept up with their P-12 learners and children in joining these online communication platforms.
The suggestion that technology might provide a portal for interconnected social thought, and a more global path to sharing democratic ideas and practice, prompts me to re-read TechnoTeaching and return to the planning and revisions I might make in my own university classes.
Pryor, C. R., & Bitter, G. G. (2008). Using multimedia to teach inservice teachers: Impacts on learning, application, and retention. Computers in Human Behavior, 24(6), 26682681.
Mitchell, J. (in press). Theres an app for that in citizenship education. Learning for Democracy: A Journal of Thought and Practice.
Sumuer, E., Esfer, S., & Yildirim, S. (2014). Teachers Facebook use: Their use habits, intensity, self-disclosure, privacy settings, and activities on Facebook. Educational Studies, 40(5), 537553.