From Amy

In my first blog entry, I asked: “How much is too much technology in the classroom?” and expressed my concern about the academic uses (and overuses) and validity of sites like Wikipedia and, more importantly, the development of students’ critical literacy skills (esp. when considering multiliteracies and semiotics) in a Google epoch. When I wrote the post, I was imagining a situation wherein students are invested in merely finding the correct answer to questions posed by the teacher. In that case, students are basically being called on to regurgitate information from texts and present it as knowledge.

My wariness of technology probably stems from my own academic identity and values, but I know something of the extent at which students rely on sites like Wikipedia & Google for gaining/providing knowledge on a subject. I’m not saying such information-getting doesn’t work on a certain level–the information is right there, easily accesssible! But such research does not involve work of a challenging nature, and thus it truncates students’ processes of inquiry and denies them the chance to practice organizing and synthesizing multiple ideas in order to come up with an interpretation that contributes to a discourse community’s body of knowledge, which is always growing and changing.

All the readings we’ve done on metacognition and pedagogical approaches that emphasize metacognition–specifically self-monitoring and awareness of strategies–have helped me to understand something I didn’t before: that every time we direct students to seek an answer to a question–especially a question to which we already have a specific answer in mind– we are denying them the opportunity to ask questions and explore possibilities for themselves. We, not just Google, can unwittingly prevent our students from developing critical thinking/critical literacy skills! Even though I’m not exactly answering my own question from blog one, I can’t help thinking of the differences between quizzes (traditional, seek-and-find) and blogs (a good used of technology in the classroom–it fosters community in and outside of the classroom)… Which approach would a student benefit more from in the long run? I’m guessing that if students set out to explore a blog topic of their choosing (or with some level of choice involved) and go through the process of realizing that there’s no exact answer to the questions they pose but rather a variety of possibilities for further exploration and questioning, then blogging has done more to enhance their learning (and self-monitoring, and strategizing) than memorizing parts of a text for and filling in the blanks.

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One response to “From Amy

  1. This post reminded me of a conversation I was having with a friend earlier this week, where we were discussing something about the San Francisco Bay, and when a specific question arose (something about depth, I believe), we both paused, then turned and began looking up the relevant data online.

    Access to more technology in the classroom can improve learning ability and provide more ways to communicate and express, but definitely also will speed things up in beneficial and non-beneficial ways. For those who are just given specific questions, if the answer is something that can be found on a wiki or other site or can be relayed by communicating with a friend, the student hasn’t learned anything; they’ve only become a conduit for the data stored elsewhere. On the other hand, genuine curiosity about a subject can lead a student to actually do some more effective, quicker research into an answer and the ability to make use of that information or express it to other people, stimulating further thinking or learning.

    (For the record: depending on where you are, the bay is up to three hundred feet in depth, but mostly much more shallow except for dredged ship paths. Useless fact on its own but it led to a more in-depth discussion, pardon the pun.)

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