64 to 36

Technology is an area of controversy and debate, where opinions range from extreme to mild in both the positive and negative side of the argument. I find myself on neither end of said spectrum, but rather somewhere in the middle, deciphering all arguments and continuing to develop an educated opinion on the matter. I am nowhere near confident enough in this area to form an elaborated conclusion on technology as a whole or as per its use in the classroom as of this moment. This is something upon which I hope to educate myself throughout this term, and by the end, I hope to be able to develop a fair and personal educated point of view about technology in the classroom.

Technology in the classroom enhances learning

Great EdTech Debate Topic 1

My achievement of this goal began this week with the first of many Great EdTech debates that will transpire over this term in EC&I 830. Six of my brave colleagues – Kyle, Erin, and  Jeremy versus Kayla, Chalyn, and Steve – battled it out to see if technology in the classroom really can enhance learning. Just like one of my peers, Ashley, I am still feeling torn about this subject even after the amazing debate Tuesday night.  In fact, I may be feeling more torn after the debate due to the accurate and thought-provoking arguments that were broached by both sides of the debate. Job well done, debate team 1!

What are the pros of technology in the classroom? Well, they are plentiful and convincing. Educational technology helps bridge the gap for those needing it, including those students with disabilities. In fact, my mom, who manages the prairie region of Neil Squire Society, uses technology as her main avenue for helping those with disabilities to gain the skills their require to empower them and get them back into the daily workforce (shameless plug – but they do great work!). The tools they use – including Dragon Naturally Speaking, Kurzweil, Zoom Text, Jaws, and a myriad of other hardware and software options – are all technologically based and enhance learning significantly in these environments.

Technology can open doors and break down barriers for children, youth, and adults with disabilities. – Adebisi, Liman, and Longpoe (2015)

Furthermore, the increased engagement in the classroom is evident with the use of technology. Programs such as Plickers and Kahoot have worked in my classroom to get kids engaged with material they otherwise would find tedious. The use of blogging has proved to be an effective method of engaging students in their work and pushing them to reflect on their own learning journey. Finally, as Andrew shared during the debate on Tuesday night, technology can connect students with environments that would not be possible otherwise using websites such as Zooniverse. These engaging tools, which enhance learning in the classroom, would not be possible without technology.

Online tools increase collaboration, innovate assessment, enable learning about information and research, transform time frames around learning, and incentivize the ownership of learning. – Eric Sheninger, 2016

However, there are disadvantages to educational technology, believe it or not. Some studies have shown that increased computer use does not in fact improve student results; a moderate amount of time on computers and electronic devices is key to success in a classroom. Most convincingly, however, is the amount of money spent on the technological tools in the classroom versus the amount of money and time spent on training teachers to properly use them. Technology can be great; in a utopia. In the real world, teachers often lack the training or the knowledge to apply the technology in the classroom. Furthermore, technology is constantly changing and improving over time; the monetary investment can, at times, seem wasteful when in but a few years, the tools will be replaced by something new and even more expensive. Finally, it can seem as though the technology can waste more time than it can save. Weekly, I have WiFi issues in my classroom, and the lesson I intended to undertake with my students using technology has to be put on the back burner and my plan B – without technology – takes the forefront. This can make me at time hesitant to use technology, as I am never sure when it will work and when it will not.

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Photo Credit: Robin Hutton via Compfight cc

Educational technology is not, and never will be, transformative on its own. It requires teachers who can integrate technology into the curriculum and use it to improve student learning. – Sam Carlson, 2002.

Although my colleagues argued their sides effectively and convincingly, this is not a black and white debate. Both sides have merit, and I believe that neither is absolutely correct. I do not believe we live in a world of extremes where an “all or nothing” attitude reigns over. Technology can enhance learning in the classroom, but only if used properly and under appropriate circumstances. Using tech to simply use it is not sufficient; using tech because it improves the lesson, it engages students, or it supplements the work appropriately is where we need to focus our attention. Even then, however, technology can only go so far without the proper training required to use it to its full potential. I know that I personally get frustrated when the technology doesn’t work because I don’t know how to fix it. Training in educational technology could encourage teachers to use it more often in ways that truly enhance learning.

So where do I stand in this debate? I think it is actually very similar to the results posted by our classroom vote; I would say I am about 64% in agreement that educational technology can enhance learning, while I am still 36% skeptical as to all of its benefits. In a perfect world, technology would always work and would enhance learning in all ways. Our world is not perfect, however, and nor is educational technology.

What are your thoughts on #edtech? Am I still behind on the times when it comes to educational technology? Share your thoughts and ideas in the space provided below! I look forward to your comments!

 

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7 Responses to 64 to 36

  1. Pingback: Nothings Fine, I’m Torn – Amy Scuka

  2. Erin Benjamin says:

    Great post Elizabeth! I agree that I’m also feeling 64/36 and I was on the “agree” team! The opposing team brought up several great points about the implementation of educational technology being the determining factor of whether or not edtech really enhances learning. I absolutely feel that technology cannot replace good teachers, but technology can enhance good teacher’s practice. I really agree with Alec’s 50/50 suggestions-50% spent on technology and 50% spent on PD for those implementing the tech.

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    • Thanks Erin! You guys debated so well, it made it difficult to be completely in disagreement! You (and Alec) are right about the 50-50 practice with technology. If only everyone was on board with that plan!

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  3. Pingback: Technology enhances learning…for some | arcticjourney

  4. Luke Braun says:

    Great job on the post Elizabeth. I totally agree that teachers are the real game changer in edtech. Regardless of what technology is used, a skillful teacher will be able to understand what to use, when to use it, and how to measure the learning outcomes sought.

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    • Thanks Luke! Now we just need to train the teachers to be able to use the technology as it should be… I know that I still feel overwhelmed when presented with all of it and all the possibilities I can use in the classroom. Maybe one day!

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  5. Pingback: To date, debate is first rate – Ellen Lague

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