A researchers’ view on effective use of technology in education: "it’s all about the learning process, not devices" – Chile

Interview published on March, 05 2012 at DailyEdventures

By Anthony Salcito, Education VP of Microsoft Corp. 

When I asked Dr. Patricio Rodríguez what he thought about innovative technology in the classroom, his answer was unexpected coming from an engineer who has spent his life researching and developing educational technology. “I suspect that some education policies are a kind of ’innovative technology entrepreneurship‘ policy rather than real education policy,” says Rodríguez. “We put a lot of technology in schools to improve education – but is that for the entrepreneurs or students?”

An interesting perspective, given that Rodríguez has been studying, researching and developing educational technology for more than 15 years. From 1996 to 2008, he served as CEO and GM, at Eduinnova, a multidisciplinary research and development center of technology-enhanced learning in Chile. The company broke the barriers of  educational technology in many ways:  first through educational videogames on handheld devices, and second through collaborative learning activities on PDAs and netbooks. His team implemented projects in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, United Kingdom and the United States. He is now at the Center for Advanced Research in Education, where they are developing an analytical tool for supporting the development of public policies.

Rodríguez’s healthy dose of skepticism does not mean he’s anti-technology in education. He simply believes we need to change the discussion. “Why? Why are we using this, and how does this tool help students learn? Engineers are always trying to solve a problem with tools and objects,” says Rodríguez. “We are happy when we design a new device. We believe we will make miracles in your classroom. But it’s not about the gadget or the machine. It’s about the process.”

Right now, Rodríguez is questioning the latest educational technology buzz: eBooks. “When computer-makers talk about eBooks and that they will replace traditional books in school – why?” says Rodríguez. “Technology brings an opportunity to do things differently. A book is a book.  Making it electronic is not transformational – that’s not going to transform education! Technology is just a medium to try to do things in way that was not previously possible.”

All of his work means nothing, says Rodríguez, without the teachers. “We need more humility, and we need to work more with the teachers,” he notes. “The perspective of the researcher is that we are the guys who will change everything … but the teachers are the key to transforming education. Without working together, we can’t change anything.”

So, where does Rodríguez see this in practice today? He points to the innovative pedagogy of Colegio Fontán and Julio Fontán. “The Fontán pedagogy has made an innovative change in education and student-centered learning,” says Rodríguez. “They use technology, but his pedagogy is not technology dependant. My favorite example of this is eyeglasses. You need them, but you’re not constantly thinking about your glasses. Technology has to work that way – it must become invisible. We will succeed when we no longer discuss terms like ‘ICT, educational technology, technology-enhanced learning environment,’ etc. If such terms exist, they draw a line between things that should be completely integrated. Educational technology must be like eyeglasses: you forget when you are using it, but you need to use it.” 

The original post here.