Technology Adoption | Q&A

Opening Up to Ed Tech: 5 Questions with Leslie Fisher


Leslie Fisher, director of Fisher Technologies

Think banning cell phones and restricting access to Web sites in your classrooms is a good idea? If so, your students will miss out on some incredible learning opportunities, according to education technology advocate Leslie Fisher.

Fisher, an education consultant and director of Fisher Technologies, said classrooms need to--and some are starting to--embrace the promise technology offers without so many restrictions on the form those technologies take. Now is the time for both educators and tech professionals to embrace all the tools students have access to and to start working on plans to bring them all together.

We caught up with Fisher, who will be speaking at next week's FETC 2011 conference in Orlando, FL, to talk about the future she envisions for the K-12 smart classroom and some of the hurdles education needs to overcome to achieve that vision.

Nagel: We've been talking about Web 2.0 for some time, and a lot of the core tools that are considered Web 2.0--wikis, blogs, and the like--have seen pretty sporadic adoption. Some love the tools; others maybe be restricted in what they can use. What are some of the trends you see in Web 2.0 adoption among educators?

Fisher: I am not seeing it as much as I would like, but I think two things are important here.

Districts need to trust their educators more. They trust them with the most important job, period: educating our future. Why don't they trust them when it comes to opening important sites to them? I can understand not wanting a student to have access, but a teacher? That does not make as much sense to me.

The other is the fact that some teachers plain ole do not want to be involved with technology, and I think there needs to be some middle ground here. A non tech teacher needs to recognize this is now a driving force in education as well as a communication and the tech people supporting that teacher have to accept that they might not participate at the level they would like them to.

Nagel: How can Web 2.0 help teachers improve instruction?

Fisher: So many ways. In my days it was the teacher and the encyclopedia that provided information to me. Now, we have access to up to the moment information to information via the Web and can even share ideas and interact with the information via Web 2.0. This is engaging our students more and making our teachers more powerful by providing them even changing lesson plan opportunities.

David Nagel: You're addressing the "hidden" Web 2.0 in one of your upcoming presentations. What are some of the tools out there that educators should know about but don't?

Leslie Fisher: I think it is to simply be more aware about tools they might already know about, and that is what I like about a conference like FETC. I usually teach a Twitter class, and it's fun to have some die-hard Twitter heads learn something they did not know about.

Another thing is simply using your personal learning network to discover. I am constantly polling my educator friends asking them what is new, and many times the new thing I am showing off for the year came from an educator getting in touch with me to share valuable information.

Nagel: How do you think mobile technologies fit into the mix? Handhelds are in some ways limiting in terms of the Web 2.0 tools users can access, especially when users have to access their tools through a mobile browser. The mobile versions of Safari, Firefox, and others are all fairly limited. How do you see these two high-profile technologies--mobile and Web 2.0--reconciling with each other in the future?

Fisher: This is a great topic and one I wish we dug into more. I agree that handhelds are limited, but they are not as limited as no computer at all. We have students walking around most of them with mini computers in their pockets, and many schools have penalties if that student uses the device in the classroom. I understand why. Heck knows if I was a student now I would be playing with technology way too much, but I would have a research device in the palm of my hand at all times. I really wish we looked more into allowing students to use their mobile devices in the classroom. I know some schools are allowing it; and while it adds some needed support, it has been well worth the effort.

My guess for the future is we will not say Web 2.0, mobile, etc. It will simply be the process, be it the app, the Web, the video camera, etc. being accessed via the portable device, netbook, etc. It will all mold together. How often do you use your phone to talk? You might be using it more to check e-mail, play a game, or surf the Web. Pretty interesting when you think about it. It is all molding together, and I find that very exciting.

Nagel: To expand on that, mobile is another category that has seen sporadic adoption, again with restrictive district policies sometimes limiting what can and can't be used on campus. Yet iOS and Android devices--phones and slates--seem to have so much promise, and they're clearly being adopted at an accelerating rate in higher education. How do you think K-12 needs to respond to recent advances in and adoption of mobile technologies?

Fisher: Not only do these devices have promise, I think they will become for many students the main device they use for their research and collaboration. I can understand the security and support concerns, but these are devices the student already feels comfortable with, and it would get more technology into our schools.

It is unfortunate that we are seeing this pretty cool shift in technology during such a tough economic time. I am watching teachers, tech directors, etc. get stretched out so much time-wise. I can sit here and provide great idea after great idea, but, we need to provide support and for some schools and districts, that is currently asking for a lot. You cannot just plop in 30 mobile devices without realizing there needs to be support and staff development. Sorry, I will get off my soap box now!

... Or at least until next week: Fisher will be speaking at the FETC 2011 conference, being held Jan. 31 through Feb. 3 in Orlando, FL. Further information can be found on the FETC event site here.

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