No-tech in a tech-world

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When we initially decided in our first week that, after our introductory blog post, the first thing we would do is look into the cons of the use of educational technology, I knew that I would be able to speak amply about personal experiences. I will often try to use phones and technology in my classroom with tools like Google Docs, Google Classroom, Kahoot, Mentimeter, and PollEverywhere, among other things. However, I am finding that cell phones are becoming a real distraction in my classroom. Students are very much attached to their phones – to apps like Snapchat and Netflix – and are always tempted to use these things at inappropriate times. Although I do not believe in taking the phones away as it does not teach self-regulation, I often find myself leaning in that direction as it seems easier than truly dealing with the problem on top of everything else that happens during the day. These are struggles that I face consistently, and although I feel at times alone in the struggle, research notes otherwise.

As we have already learned, more technology does not necessarily mean better academic success. It is said that although minor amounts of technology have been noted to improve marks and knowledge acquisition, more does not always mean better. In fact,

Lots of computer time meant worse school performance — by a lot. – Anya Kamenetz 

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There are skeptics about the value of technology in the school. As is described in the article Tablets out, imagination in: the schools that shun technologythere are a variety of schools that have decided to completely reject technology in their environments, and they aren’t necessarily the schools you would expect. The article above notes a school in Silicon Valley, one where parents are often on the leading edge of technology in their own profession, that does not allow technology in the classroom. Rather, they would prefer to focus on the relationships you build at school, and the interaction between teacher and student. We teachers often refute this idea, saying that if we ignore the technology in the classroom and don’t teach our students how to use it, they will actually be at a disadvantage when they graduate, as they won’t have the digital skills required of them in our current 21st century technology-driven age. The schools noted in the article above tend to disagree.

Amico claims one of the reasons parents working in the digital industry are choosing a lo-tech, no-tech education for their children is that it teaches students the innovative thinking skills many employers desire. She adds that students weaned on technology often lack that ability to think outside the box and problem solve. – Matthew Jenkin

Silicon Valley isn’t the only place embracing these no-tech schools. In Morden, London, students under 12 are banned from technology including smartphones, television, internet, and movies. Afterwards, the school slowly integrates technology into the classroom, beginning with documentaries that have been approved by parents at 12, movies and computers at 14, and internet use at 16 years old. Why?

[T]aking a more considered approach to the use of technology in class allows teachers to help students develop core skills such as executive decision making, creativity and concentration – all of which are far more important than the ability to swipe an iPad or fill in an Excel spreadsheet –  Matthew Jenkin

These articles often cite how technology and constant access to Internet have lead to students needing an urgent sense of immediate gratification – something that doesn’t exist in the real world. Consequently, they say, the use of technology in the classroom in fact inhibits real learning and growth, and stifles the development of creativity, patience, innovation, and critical thinking skills.

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They aren’t the only ones who see technology as a con in our classroom environment. Nicholas Kardaras’ article Screens in Schools are a $60 Billion Dollar Hoax focuses on the business aspect of educational technology, and how this has taken over for the required learning and development of our students. Businesses have invested billions of dollars into educational technology (even though this articles notes this may be decreasing), and we are often distracted by the utopian ideals this technology promises that we don’t see the problems inherent within them. The time is takes to learn how to use and how to incorporate the technology is one thing, but then we get the hang of it, and something new, something better, comes out that yet again shifts the way we see things, and sometimes, this isn’t always for the better. According to Kardaras’ article, schools on already tight budgets – where they have to let go of teaching, assistant, or administrative positions within schools – are spending money on technology when it isn’t always the answer. He in fact speaks to the “Law of Amplification”, which explains that:

technology could help education where it’s already doing well, but it does little for mediocre educational systems. Worse, in dysfunctional schools, it “can cause outright harm.” […] “Unfortunately, there is no technological fix…more technology only magnifies socioeconomic disparities, and the only way to avoid that is non-technological.” – Nicholas Kardaras

That’s not all. Apparently, according to research cited in this article, students actually prefer lessons that aren’t always focused on technology, but rather on what the author calls “ordinary, real-life lessons”. So, why are we using so much educational technology, and how is it solving all of our problems? Is it actually solving our problems, or creating more?

Now, this is not necessarily how I feel about educational technology. Our goal this week was to look for articles that establish some of the negatives within this field – which is what I have cited previously. I still believe educational technology has a place in the classroom, and should have a place in my Social Studies classroom, but what this place is, I’m not quite sure. I want my lessons to be more engaging, and I do believe educational technology can help with this goal, but perhaps it is not the sole thing I need to change in my classroom.

What are your thoughts? Are the negatives too great? It is difficult when the week has focused on the cons – come next week, when we look at the pros of technology, perhaps then it will be time to re-evaluate and see where educational technology should fit within my Social Studies classroom.

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8 Responses to No-tech in a tech-world

  1. Jennifer Huber says:

    It certainly does seem that the negatives are too great, but you’re right, next week we will have a change in mindset after we focus on the positives.
    I struggle with the pros and cons of including technology everyday. It is such a learning process that is constantly shifting with new discoveries, new tools, changing points of view, and the latest social media app. It is definitely a difficult struggle to overcome when it is constantly changing in such a short amount of time. That doesn’t even take into account the abilities and comfort levels of every educator trying to plan lessons. For me, a lot of it is still trial and error.

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    • I completely agree with the change aspect being difficult – it is tough to stay on top of the different things. I don’t think this is ever going to change either! Change is a constant in society, and with technology is happens all the quicker. Something to look into definitely!

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  2. Cell phones… the struggle is real! Call me guilty, I have my phone everywhere and use it in my own classroom for music. I often have students say why is it fair you get to use your cell phone and we can’t?? Although, I am an adult and I can make my own decisions they also have the ability to make decisions and hopefully we can guide them in the direction of making positive decisions with their cell phones and using them in appropriate manners within the classroom. I’m very hopeful that throughout this course we will be able to work together and find answers, ideas, solutions for everyones ideas and hope that we can all implement technology into our classrooms successfully and positively! I look forward to reading your blogs in the weeks to come!

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    • I think most adults are actually – you see teachers in staff meetings being very attached to their phones. I find it distracting too; I need to put it away or I would be checking it in class all the time too!

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  3. joriegilroy says:

    You have a lot of excellent points here. Teaching in today’s world definitely has its challenges and we need to find ways to help students regulate and manage when they can use their cell phones. Many adults also have difficulty with this too. We have become accustom to maintaining connections with family and friends through social networking, instant messaging and other social media applications. The need to have our cell phones with us at all times and check them regularly may come from the fact that we are living in a world where we have become so use to having instant access to information anytime, anywhere. I think because internet access is so readily available it adds a lot of pressure for us to stay connected.

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