Technology ≠ Short Cut

This week, my peers Wendy, Kyla and Amy gamely advocated on behalf of a position that runs counter to a near consensus among our class. As our pre-vote showed, our class strongly feels that technology is helpful towards improving student learning in our classrooms. Nonetheless, the three of them proficiently provided us with some very effective counter arguments that, at the least, gave us some pause and forced us to seriously discuss the issue.

To begin with, I will be upfront and say that my own perception is squarely with the majority. I believe that integration and use of technology greatly enhances learning opportunities in the classroom. Anecdotally, as a Learning Resource Teacher, I also know that technology provides opportunity for students with challenging needs to participate with the curriculum.

I don’t think our lopsided post vote truly reflects where we fall, as a class. I felt that in the end, as a class, our actual perspective on the issue rested somewhere in the middle. Somewhere in the middle of a spectrum. Or somewhere in that overlap of a Venn diagram.

Our position was better captured by the variety of posts and comments on our padlet, which point to anything but a uniform, blanket endorsement of technology in the classroom. Consider:

@emaeers: “I am on the fence with this topic. On the one hand technology is a wonderful tool to make resources more accessible to students… Teachers really need to make sure that they are using technology as a way to enhance their lesson and not a way to substitute for real life hands on experiences.”

@dhackel13: “…use is absolutely everything…Teachers need to really assess why they are using the technology and make sure it is enhancing or transforming the lesson and not just a direct substitution that is not necessary. “

Anonymous: “…The fanciest, newest, coolest technology is a just a tool. So is a chalk and slate.”

@Kendie81: “...Implementation is key. How is technology being used in the classroom? Is it being used on a “surface” level…”

As is the case with most things, moderation is key. Our own personal stance will likely depend on our own circumstances, and I am no exception. As I mentioned before, I know that technology helps teachers to differentiate for student need. I know that it greatly enhances students’ ability to access curriculum, especially our most vulnerable students.

But aimless use of technology is, well, just that. Aimless. Implementing some kind of technological initiative for the sake of using technology won’t do anything. To temper my position even more, an OECD report in 201 found that heavy use of technology actually dragged down student outcomes Math, Science and literacy. The article was littered with statements that echo the cautious statements of our own class:

“Technology can amplify great teaching, but great technology cannot replace poor teaching,”

“While PISA (OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment) results suggest that limited use of computers at school may be better than not using computers at all, using them more intensively than the current OECD average tends be associated with significantly poorer student performance.”

“The OECD report found outcomes in education only improved when technology was present if the computers or iPads helped students study or practice skills they learned in class.”

So, in the end, what does this mean…? Well, both sides of our own debate this week seem to creep towards this middle ground that recognizes the importance of the role of the teacher. If nothing else, it may be Kristen, Jana and Katie’s success in claiming that middle ground for themselves that led to such a lopsided vote.

Interesting…

Perhaps this also means is that we, as teachers, are thankfully not going to be mechanized any time soon. 🙂

Thanks for reading!

3 Comments

on “Technology ≠ Short Cut
3 Comments on “Technology ≠ Short Cut
  1. Interesting thoughts on this debate. Taking advantage of technology for our students opens up opportunities to be creative, collaborate with others and reflect on our growth and our thinking. However, I don’t feel it should be an add on or replacement to what we do but rather fit naturally as a part of what we do in the classroom. I am not sure why we always talk about technology as if it is something that is in or out. Our students are creating and collaborating using social media when they are not with us, to me it seems like we are missing out on an opportunity if we do not see where technology fits. Just my thoughts?

  2. Fascinating thoughts on the debate Joe, and a very good read. I completely agree when you state, “implementing some kind of technological initiative for the sake of using technology won’t do anything” I believe that technology in the classroom enhances learning but having said that technology by itself will not enhance learning. As an educator in this digital era, it is our responsibility make this notion of technology enhancing education into a reality by effective and efficient use of it. Whether we agree or disagree It is important to acknowledge that students are already absorbed and engaged in using technology, rather than viewing this as an alarming and disturbing development we have to see this as an amazing opportunity for schools and educators to benefit from integrating technology in the classroom and make teaching and learning more effective. Once again a great thought-provoking post and looking forward to your next one.

  3. You are very right that technology isn’t a short cut. It can’t replace a teacher, but when used effectively as a tool alongside great teaching some incredible learning can take place. It’s all in how and why technology is used. Checking the SAMR model and reflecting on pedagogy can help classrooms use technology effectively. It can be used to allow students choice as well as provide students with an audience and way to share their voice. It can be used to differentiate and allow students who struggle tools to help them be successful.

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