March 13, 2007

David Wells Customizes IT

This text was initially published by Profweb under a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 International licence, before Eductive was launched.

David Wells is the Director of Information Technology Services at Marianopolis College. He started at this job in 2005 because he wanted a chance improve the situation of teachers in Quebec colleges who are given little or no support to use technology in their classrooms.Interview with Norman Spatz, the English side of Profweb.

Profweb first contacted David because of his involvement in managing Personal Response Systems otherwise known as ‘Clickers’. He coordinates the demonstrations of this new technology at the Interactive Educational Technology Fair happening at John Abbott College in June 2007. Profweb interviewed David about this exciting new pedagogical tool. The resulting interview, which is linked to an mp3 file below, is far from an exhaustive survey on the subject, but should serve to whet your interest. An interesting site to read for more detailed information is the following:

Once the taping came to an end, however, it became evident that for David the use of clickers is not really the issue; but merely a marker along the long road that we in the Quebec college network are taking to integrate technology within the normal collegiate instruction. Continuing the analogy of the road, David sees himself as the civil engineer trying to eliminate dangerous curves and insuring that the surface is made from good materials that are well installed.

Because of the Reform, specific mandates were needed concerning technology. Government support was also needed to bring it into the schools. The real question in the IT revolution for many years has been how to create a model for technology integration in a cégep that is not torture for teachers.

He further explained that each teacher’s classroom is different. We know that there are also different learning styles among students. Still, a teacher can deliver only one approach at a time. David believes that with technology, several different approaches can be done simultaneously, and it is for this reason that information technology must be promoted.

Is technology not discipline specific? Technology must adapt to be able to achieve specific curricular objectives in Physics, in English, in each subject being taught.

David feels that there are constructivist objectives to integrating IT and that they are the solution to this problem. It is not just a question of desire, but a commitment on the part of the administration as well as the teacher to make technology happen in the classroom.

David sees himself as a designer of learning environments. Technology allows him to make the classroom more flexible. A teacher analyzes a class and has a certain tool belt of solutions. Technology is just another tool to add to the collection! The problem is the price tag. It is expensive not only in terms of money, but in terms of time. Integrating technology, strapping on that new tool, is part of a global response. Teachers facing new technology in their classrooms need resources and training as well as professional support!

For the integration of Can 8 into FSL classes at Marianopolis, David hired a team of designers of support infrastructure whose job was to make the integration of technology into the classroom easier. Unlike many scenarios using new technology, here it was assumed that this process would take resources, expertise and time. The people hired were instructional technologists with an MA in Educational Technology. Here is a link to the Concordia Faculty.

Teachers were responsible for determining how to use technology in their classes, but not for mastering the technology itself in order to create the material to integrate into their classes. Teachers were asked to supply the technologists with explanations of the concepts that they wanted to teach, the methods that they traditionally used to teach them and the questions that they wanted students to be able to answer. The technologists combined this information with their own expertise to produce materials that the teachers could use to effectively adapt to the new system with a minimum of confusion.

According to David, the true challenge of being an IT director and representative is not just to get the teachers who are computer savvy up to speed with new technology, but to get people who don’t use technology in their lives to use it as a tool in their teaching.

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