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EdTech in class doesn’t just enhance learning, it IS learning.

Someone once said to me (yes, “said”, this definitely isn’t an assigned question I read), “Technology in the classroom enhances learning”. My first thought was, “yes, of course it is, it’s silly to think otherwise…”

 

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“Logan Petlak reflecting” via Camera of Samsung Galaxy S5

Then I reflected on it a bit…

 

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nothing changed.

Statement still is accurate.

Why do I think that?

Well, I would argue that technology in the classroom today is learning. Regardless of the mechanisms students use to grasp the content embedded in our curriculum, technology plays a role one way or another. Be it delivering the students to educational institutions, how they get their nutrition for the day, or utilizing apps, programs, and devices to foster learning. Don’t get me wrong, there are problems within its use and a need for doubt, as Greg Toppo reminds us about humanity’s tendencies, “we always fret about technology”. We need the doubt to continue to grow and check ourselves, but we can’t deny the importance of technology and the learning inherent within.

The learning extends beyond simply curricular content. Technology is a force for connectedness in the modern world. When considering the circle of courage below, I could connect it to each of the dimensions of it connecting to Digital Citizenship. Belonging through social media, independence through responsible device use, generosity with commenting and sharing with others, and mastery in the procurement of curricular knowledge and outcomes.

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Circle of Courage via BehaviorAdvisor.com

“using technology promotes sense of belonging and interactive participation in the classrooms for children with learning disabilities”  – Bryant and Bryant, 1998

The above quote speaks to me as a student advocate and reinforces the connection to the circle of courage. Developing that sense of belonging is consistent with it and is a critical part of development for all youth. And this belonging occurs in technology in the form of social media today.

 

Devil’s advocate: For the doubters.

Now I know there may be student advocates or doubters thinking… “But Logan, what about the students who are in the classroom who don’t have access to phones in BYOD (bring your own device) settings?” Fine. Devil’s advocate? Yes, some students will not have devices and this raises questions of further increasing the wealth and technology gap in the classroom. And yes, BYOD can exacerbate that, but in province-wide school divisions facing cutbacks or lean spending models being approached, can it afford purchasing devices for all, probably not, but some, be it through donation or purchase for need in the classroom. We are obligated as educators to keep students educationally literate and up to speed on current learning (technology, by extension), and we can minimize education spending whilst teaching students to use their own tools or hand-me-downs from another to stay connect an learn. If anything, the arguments against BYOD enforces the importance of devices in the classroom, the students need to at least learn about it here if not at home. Fact: Inequity will always be present between student in our schools… so as educators, rather than blanket money spending for every single student, follow the example of modified, adaptation and differentiated instruction and simply provide necessary tools to those that need it, and adjust instruction accordingly. And this doesn’t even consider the adaptations with technology, as Justine puts it, “all of the different technology can lead to equity for students in the classroom.”

But, Logan, what about ___________________”.

“The need more PD (professional development) for using EdTech” “Most teachers want to learn to use educational technology effectively, but they lack the conceptual framework, time, computer access and support necessary to do so”. I have a hard time agreeing with this. Arguments can be made both ways, but for me, my biggest point of contention is “time”. One of the benefits of technology in terms of knowledge acquisition is that it takes less time looking online than travelling to a library or accessing a textbook. Maybe the information on how to use it isn’t there, however, so logic would denote there should be professional development for this. Interesting idea, but at what cost? And what aspect of technology do you target? Phones? Apps? Computers? Programs? Existing PD on working with language learners may utilize this technology anyway (if not, plan accordingly). Not to mention, if EdTech PD isn’t a perceived need in the entire division, is it worth making a specific priority? If most PD’s themselves incorporate tech, then this should happen unconsciously and simultaneously and not require increased spending (in tight budgets, as referenced before).

“Technology reducing performance” – Comparing “performance” in the critique of the use of technology, and what I fail to see is the assessment means… is it consistent with the circumstances in which learning took place? Same content, different written/technological delivery, same written assessment? I have a hard time seeing an immediate correlation without explicit details on the assessment means.

 

Final thoughts

As I said, we need doubts about what technology involves. But the fact is that learning and working today requires technology, and to ignore that or avoid it as an educator does a disservice to our students… especially if they come from a device-free background.

What are your thoughts? New technology can have new detriments or roadblocks to learning? But is it just the struggles of our times? Comment!

– Logan Petlak