Embracing the Possibilities of Educational Technology
College of Education faculty Bob Maloy and Sharon Edwards have collaborated on courses, research, books, and projects for three decades. Throughout that time, they have consistently and enthusiastically embraced the educational technology available, reinventing their work and the student experience, vastly expanding access to teaching and learning resources, and, in Maloy’s words, “learning how all of this can transform schools from the institutions of the past to the organizations of the future.”
Maloy began at UMass Amherst in 1981, after working in human services, for the Department of Education, and teaching at Greenfield Community College. Edward’s association with UMass began when she started teaching at Marks Meadow Elementary School in the fall of 1974. From the start, she had a duel contract with the university, which was the norm at the time. She remained at Marks Meadow until she retired from the school in 2007, but has continued at the college as clinical faculty.
It’s a pretty powerful way to begin to rethink the reading/writing experience in the digital age.Bob Maloy
Edwards and Maloy’s most prolific project has been the TEAMS Tutoring in Schools course, which Maloy launched in 1983. The class was a service learning course long before that phrase was part of the educational parlance. Maloy hatched the idea for the class with Jack Hefley, the principal of Amherst High School at the time. Amherst High School had recently had an influx of students from Southeast Asia, and they didn’t have the resources to give the students the support they needed in learning English. In response, Maloy developed a course, through which UMass students would tutor at the high school. Making it a course gave them the structure they needed to properly mentor the tutors and to ensure the continuity that would be hard to maintain in a purely volunteer program.
The TEAMS Tutoring course has run every semester since its inception and is now one of the longest running courses at the university. Edwards joined Maloy in leading the course twenty years ago. Tutors now work in districts all over the region, in K-12, preschool, after school programs, and within UMass Amherst.
Wiki has the advantage of living on after the semester is over for everybody, and it’s free—it’s an open educational resource for everybody anywhere.
The new tools pushed Maloy and Edwards to radically rethink how they taught and thanks to the technology, they have transformed TEAMS into a flipped course. Rather than listening to lectures in class, students learn the material on their own time, using online resources, and then use the class time to discuss and reflect on the material and their tutoring experiences, lead workshops, try activities, etc. “We make the two and a half hours of the college class a lot more like what might be a very wonderful and effective elementary, middle, or high school class, where there’s some large groups, small groups, individual work. It’s interactive. It changes rapidly,” Maloy notes. This model also allows them to change the curriculum and teaching materials as needed, with the course always evolving. Further, not only is the class more participatory and engaging for the students, it models for them how they can lead their own interactive classes in the future.
Wiki technology has also been key in another resource that Maloy developed with his students as the result of the Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure (MTEL). When the state introduced the test, secondary education history students started facing the challenge of reviewing vast amount of history to prepare. Maloy and his students in “New Developments in History and Political Science in Secondary Schools” (Education 613) started making paper study guides, but that proved to be an inefficient and unwieldy solution.
The wiki not only provides necessary resources, it models for students and teachers how to undertake effective web research. Edwards points out that most students and teachers only know how to Google for web searches. “What the wiki provides in stark contrast are resources that students and some teachers don’t know exist,” like college libraries, presidential libraries, the Smithsonian institute, and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. “This is more of a curated library,” she notes, and one without excessive ads and clickbait.
As the result of their various collaborations, Edwards and Maloy have also co-authored the textbook, Transforming Learning with New Technologies with College of Education colleague Ruth-Ellen Verock-O’Loughlin and computer science professor, Beverly Park Woolf. The text gives K-12 teachers strategies on using desktops, laptops, smartphones, tablets, apps, interactive educational websites, learning games, blogs and wikis, assistive technologies, digital portfolios, and other new and emerging technologies to create interactive, inquiry-based teaching and learning experiences. Not surprisingly, beginning with the second edition of the book, they created a wiki companion to the textbook called Transforming Text.
Students have to be taught how to use technology for learning. They know how to use it for their social means. They also know how to use it to find out things they choose to learn, but they don’t credit their self learning as being equal to what school asks them to learn.Sharon Edwards
In this textbook, as in their work over the last several decades, Maloy and Edwards have modeled for educators in K-12 as well as in higher education how to embrace technology in education, how to adapt pedagogy to these ever changing tools, and how to engage their technologically savvy students. “Students have to be taught how to use technology for learning,” Edwards observes. “They know how to use it for their social means. They also know how to use it to find out things they choose to learn, but they don’t credit their self learning as being equal to what school asks them to learn.” The tools allow teachers to equalize the two and make the learning feel far more personal. “That’s what learning ought to be in school,” she asserts, “a way to relax and find interesting things.”