Reconsidering Technology in the Classroom

This posting reexamines Blog #1 in light of all of our readings and class discussions thus far. In Blog #1, I asked: “I’m kinda curious if anyone else out there thinks that [technology and the social constructivist theory of education] can be truly and completely merged. Can we be “co-constructors of knowledge” in the pursuit for higher education from behind a monitor? The functions and applications that allow us to more quickly and more profoundly interact with one another, can they truly substitute for face-to-face communication?”

Coincidentally, the last topic we discussed in class narrowed in on this same topic. The springboard for this was Jackson’s quote: “Technology is changing people’s relationship with reading and writing, thus forcing our notions of literacy to change… [B]ut educators need to do more than just adapt to the changes technology introduces. We need to add a critical lens and make sure our classrooms do not become ‘technocentric,’ i.e., using technology uncritically and focusing more on technology than our student learning.”

I too fall in with Jackson’s camp. As Dr. Wormuth mentioned, the horse is out of the barn: it is too late to wonder if technology should be used for education because it will be in the classroom whether we like it or not. To which Mark made an interesting comment about this: we might consent to using technology in the classroom but we need more longitudinal studies of the effects (I perceived this to mean the physical or psychological effects) this will have on students. (I hope I didn’t overstate your position, Mark. I realize you were playing devil’s advocate here.) This is an ethical and worthwhile point to consider but having been inundated with television since the 20s, computer games since the 70s, (modern) cell phones since the 90s, people have been spending more and more time in front of screens – both for work and pleasure. People have obviously found the positive effects outweigh the detrimental ones.

So, if the technological classroom is here, I think the most important factor teachers need to consider when creating lessons is, “Am I creating a lesson that can be enhanced by technology or am I creating a lesson that is driven by technology?” The latter leads to a focus on gimmickry and on entertaining students. This, in turn, leads to students being underwhelmed by using technology in a way that is artificial and institutionalized. More importantly, students are losing out on gaining the necessary skills and information that is the upshot of a good lesson. Clearly, technology should not be the primary focus of a good lesson. The former, however, realizes that technology can be used to improve lessons but only uses it as a means to an end. In particular, it is not a replacement for the social interaction that leads to a co-construction of knowledge between student and student or student and teacher.

For your consideration: I brought up SMART boards and their growing popularity. On the face of it, they seem to be the kind of gimmick I am opposed to, but, after hearing Amber’s explanation of how her friend implements the SMART board in class, I just may be a convert. What’s your take?

I also came across Corning Incorporated’s vision of… glass. Woah! Do you believe the hype? It looks cool and creepy at the same time.

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2 responses to “Reconsidering Technology in the Classroom

  1. Yes I found that glass thing kinda creepy as well.

    And I do think you fairly represented my opinions. Too often what is utterly lacking from this debate is any acknowledgment of the effects this technology can have in both a positive AND negative manner. Nobody ever stops and says “What do we lose by incorporating ______ into our classroom and is that an acceptable loss?” (btw I misspelled “loss” in that last sentence only to have auto-correct catch it for me). As was also brought up in class by someone else, why do we automatically assume that the skills lost as a result of technology are replaced with an equally valuable alternative? Has student writing significantly improved since the advent of spell check? Plus, we are advancing exponentially faster now then back then. Writing had a couple thousand years to take hold, shake out the kinks, and become ingrained in the human condition. How long was “writing” around and evolving before it was taught? Compare that timeframe to the internet and tell me if you don’t see a potentially problematic difference.

  2. I agree with you that the most important question to ask ourselves in this debate is whether the use of technology is adding something valuable to the lesson, or simply serving to keep up with the technology trend or to entertain students. As long as there is value added by using technology, I believe it is our job as teachers to adapt to what our students are faced with in their daily lives.

    But wow, that glass video is really intense! Although you can definitely sign me up for a walk through the dinosaur park!

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