Technology has been a fascinating development, that I believe anyone who has attended school can relate to, as it has been constantly updated and implemented in schools. And at some point in that technology life cycle, it becomes obsolete, but it is often hard to part ways with it in the classroom due to external factors, mostly involving funding. When technology surpasses the schools, teachers often feel like Abe Simpson in the clip below.
But let’s get back to the topic of “Does technology enhance learning in the classroom?” Are we using the technology as intended, or are we simply replacing the current teaching practices currently in place in schools?
Just like the image above, do we unpack technology, and use it to maximize it’s potential, or are we good with just using it as a replacement for what it truly can be.
As stated in Castañeda and Williamson’s paper, technology has become entangled in almost all aspects of life, so for us as educators to ignore the interconnectedness that we all have to technology is foolish. Technology has shown us that when we think that it has reached its potential, a new, innovative company or product extends our thinking of what truly is possible. If I think the thing we need to consider is how is it being used in the classroom. If it is simply being used as a novelty or one-off situation, then probably no, it is not enhancing the learning in the classroom. We can show students how these tools that we carry with us, that connects us to the world, and that fit in our pocket or backpack, are more than just entertainment devices, and can be used for so much more, if we attempt to unlock it’s potential.
Helping the small schools
Technology has the ability to narrow the gap, between large, urban schools and small, rural schools. In a school where they have multiple classes of Chemistry or Physics a year, their science closet will be updated with chemicals or lab materials, which offer students to have a hands-on experience with what they are being taught in class. What about the school that combines the Grade 11 and 12s in Chemistry 30, in order to make it feasible to have a teacher in the classroom teaching them? Are they willing to spend that money on lab supplies, in order for their students to have the same experience? Maybe, maybe not. But what are some opportunities that technology can deliver to these students? PHET Simulations allow science teachers the opportunity to have students interact with models to understand concepts, that might not have been possible to observe this, based on what their schools have to offer.
In the ICTC’s paper, they identified some situations where technology has had a great impact on certain populations. Internet and technology access has allowed remote communities, such as Indigenous students in northern communities, to connect and collaborate with others. Without technology, this would not be possible. This is an opportunity that could be more widely integrated, as it is an opportunity for our students to connect with others, and widen their world views, by experiencing it, rather than reading or hearing about it from a textbook.
Yes, it is giving us opportunities, but is it benefiting the learning?
Janeen and Catrina shared 2 TEDx Talks about the issue.
In the first, Scott Wideman understands that technology has become integrated in society, and isn’t going away, but it is our responsibility to teach students how to use technology responsibly. This is a major concern for technology in education, as students are very inquisitive, and can think of ways of using technology misappropriately, in ways we don’t imagine until we see it first hand. By the time they are using technology on a consistent basis in the classroom, they have been exposed to it at home for years, and have grown an idea of technology being associated with a tool for entertainment, and not for education. It takes a long time for educators to try and break that conception that the student has, and this often leads to frustration by both parties. And if the teacher does not have enough tools in their toolbox, rather than working with the student, technology is potentially removed, and reverting to “old-school” ways of learning and teaching resume in the classroom.
So what can we do?
Technology is here to stay, and it is up to us to use it to it’s fullest potential, to maximize it’s effects. However, we need to be prepared for challenges, but be persistent and consistent with what we have as our end goal, and keep on pushing forward to try and meet that goal.
If we solely use technology as a replacement, there is little value to it. We must make the connection with students, that technology is more than just a tool for entertainment, and show them ways to use their devices as tools that expand their world.