Our first debate happened Tuesday and was not a disappointment at all. My classmates Nancy, Amanda, Trevor and Matt set the bar high for creativity, persuasiveness and had very valid points. This is a topic I have gone back and forth between. I can see and understand the pros and cons for both sides. There was great discussions happening with many other classmates seeing both sides of this argument. Many points that were brought up I had not considered prior to the class. After reading the articles provided and hearing from my classmates, I am still on the fence. Here are some of my personal experiences for both sides of the argument.
Technology does enhance learning if used in the proper way. George Couros states, “it is important that we try to focus on what opportunities technology presents to us as educators to do something that we could not do before.” If technology is brought to us as educators but we are not taught what to do with it, it won’t enhance students learning or engagement. Educators need to be taught how to implement technology so it can be as beneficial as possible. If you put a student in front of a laptop or iPad with no direction, it’s not going to enhance their learning. Technology can be used in so many ways to create more learning opportunities for students. As my classmate Daina wrote in her blog, “Technology in the classroom CAN enhance learning when: there is a purpose!, there is consistent usage of specific tools and applications, all students have access to technology tools that benefit them as a learner for their specific needs, technology can transfer to different settings in the real world and even beyond educational environments, students/staff are trained and supported continually as to how to use the technology, and when tech issues don’t arise, batteries are fully charged, updates have been made, wifi (when applicable) is accessible and not spotty.” Daina summed up the great points of how technology can enhance learning and made the point during our debates that teacher need to have PD on the technology they are implementing in their classrooms. This way it does enhance learning and not distract from learning. If teachers don’t have training on the technology in their classrooms, it won’t be used efficiently or have purpose.
Reflecting on the technology in my classroom, the most important, in my opinion, point that was made by Amanda is that technology invites inclusion into our classrooms. Without technology many students would not be able to be included in ‘mainstream’ education. Schools today have a variety of learning needs. Technology gives students a voice and helps teachers to be able to adapt for all learning needs. Voice-to-text is a great tool for students who struggle to write or read. Technology can give confidence to our students that learn in different ways. I have had students with visual impairments in my classroom. Each student has different needs and ways to learn. Some use Braillers to write and read, others use computers with a large, yellow keyboard, and others use a CCTV which is a device that allows students to magnify their books or work under a camera. The technology that we have to adapt for students with visual impairments is remarkable. Years ago, we would not be able to have these students in a ‘mainstream classroom’ but today with the technology we have these kids can be successful learners with their peers. Inclusion is so important in our classrooms and if technology can help provide inclusion, it does enhance learning.
There are many fun, interactive ways to use technology to teach a skill or concept. Students learn in many different ways and technology can give an opportunity to embed a skill or concept into students. Using the Smartboard, videos, songs, and games in class makes the learning fun and provides opportunities for students to really understand a concept. Many learning apps work on concepts that we teach in class and give more practice independently for students that need it.
Trevor and Matt brought up great points to argue against technology enhancing learning in the classroom. The article they provided The Digital Gap Between Rich And Poor Kids Is Not What We Expected, gave insight from a parents perspective of not having screen time and the digital divide. I agree with a lot of what this article said and the points my classmates made. Parents don’t have a say in how much screen time we allow within a classroom. It can be a distraction from learning. I have had times where students have meltdowns because I won’t let them go on an iPad. This is a waste of time and a big distraction from learning.
Within my classroom I try to have a good balance of implementing technology that has purpose. At lunchtime I let my students watch one episode of either Magic School Bus or Wild Kratts because it does have educational value. The iPads in my class are only used for the reading and writing apps. I use technology to teach many concepts. My go to sites are Brainpop and Epic Books. I value connection and social interaction in my classroom and throughout the day for my students. I believe it is so important to have face-to-face human interaction and connection. I provide opportunities for this to happen within my teaching day. I do a lot of turn and talks, sharing circles, hands on partner or group work/games, and make kids have conversations. Many students go home and don’t have anyone talk to them or listen to them. They may play video games for their whole evening. As part of literacy, students need to know how to speak and have a conversation. Providing times to do this and not have technology is very important to me as an educator. At the end of the day I try to have a social time. On Friday’s I have ‘Fun Friday” where students choose to play board games, build with blocks, draw, and interact with classmates in a fun way. This relationship building time I believe is very beneficial for their growth. I don’t allow iPads during this time and my students understand it’s because I want them to play/interact together and be creative. Technology can be a distraction in the classroom from interaction with peers. Nature is also so important to me as an educator to implement in my day. Having students play outside and enjoy the beauty of nature is a priority I put in my teaching. Technology often distracts students from wanting to enjoy nature and be outside for recess. Technology in the classroom can distract from these important skills that need to be developed at a young age. Without technology students learn to regulate themselves, be bored, present(mindfulness) and build meaningful relationships.
In conclusion I see both sides of the argument and agree with many points from both. This is a very broad topic. I believe there has to be a balance and purpose to everything we do in our teaching day. If you put kids in front of technology all day, important skills are missing from their development. But if we don’t teach students how to use technology properly in our world, they won’t be set up with the skills to navigate the digital world. My classmate Curtis made the point in his blog that “technology needs to be used as a tool FOR learning, and must have a purpose.” Without a purpose it is just fluff in the classroom or busywork and won’t enhance learning. With a purpose, technology can enhance learning and engagement in our classrooms. I will finish with another quote from The Myths of Technology Series.
“If we can develop meaningful learning opportunities that empower our students to make a difference, our impact will go beyond their time they spent in our classrooms. Technology alone will never provide this. We need great educators that think differently about the opportunities we now have in our world and will take advantage of what we have in front of us, and help to create these experiences for our students to do something powerful.” George Couros