Technology in the Classroom: Enhancement, NOT Replacement

Tuesday evening brought the first edition of The Great Ed Tech Debate, and what a debate it was! The topic at hand was whether or not technology in the classroom enhances learning, and it was presented by Amanda, Nancy, Trevor, and Matt. Before watching the debate, I have to admit that I knew this was a topic I was very much on the fence about. I could ultimately argue for both sides, but could not really determine which side of the fence I stood more strongly on. I’d like to say that this debate changed me, and that after the debate was over I had an epiphany and jumped to a side of the fence; however, that was not the case.  Before I get too far into my own thoughts, lets take a look at how the debate went down! 

PROS

Amanda and Nancy took on the task of arguing FOR the idea that technology enhances learning in the classroom. Their video was an emotional story that tugged on your heart strings, and outlined several reasons why they believe technology in the classroom enhances learning.

Some of their key arguments were:

  • The 4 Cs (Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking, and Creativity), in addition to a 5th C (Connection)
  • Technology transcends the classroom
  • Technology allows the ability to engage students and deepen learning
  • Helps develop digital literacy/digital citizenship

 

CONS

Trevor and Matt took on the AGAINST position in the debate, arguing that technology does not enhance learning in the classroom.  Their video was witty, tongue and cheek, and even offered a slightly Trump-like slogan!

Some of their key arguments were:

  • Technology is a distraction
  • Technology doesn’t mean good pedagogy
  • IT use while learning causes shallow information processing
  • Bombards students with screen time

MY THOUGHTS

I have to give kudos to both debate teams, as they presented great arguments for both sides. So much so, that I did not come away any clearer on my position than when I started!

Pros. . . 

When I think about the argument presented by Amanda and Nancy, I appreciate their push for the connections piece. Especially in this time, connections through technology are crucial. Without tools such as Google Meet and SeeSaw, I would have no way of connecting with my students. Technology has allowed me to continue working with my students, even though we are not in the same physical space. Amanda and Nancy’s use of The Born Friends video drove this idea home even more. Real stories, from real people, demonstrating just how powerful technology can be to maintain connections through physical distance barriers. Without the use of technology, my job would be near impossible during this time.

Another key point I took away from the pro side of this argument is the idea of balance. Technology should be used as a tool, not the only tool. This may be the biggest idea I took away from the entire debate. Technology should be there to ENHANCE learning, not REPLACE the teacher. Technology should not take away the role of a teacher, but rather aid in the teachings. If there is no balance there could be serious consequences, such as losing that teacher/student human connection.

The use of technology also needs to be meaningful and purposeful, not just something you use because you feel that you should, or need to. George Couros, in his post that speaks to The Myths of Technology, talks about EMPOWERMENT over simply trying to engage students. We need to use technology to empower students to want to do something meaningful, or do more, rather than simply engaging them with something flashy on a screen.

Cons. . . 

With all of the pros I agree with, there are also some points on the con side of the argument that definitely sway me.

One of the main ideas that Trevor and Matt presented that stood out to me was the pressure teachers can feel to use technology. Technology is all around us, and it will be an important component in our students’ futures; however, that doesn’t necessarily mean you just use technology because you feel you should be.  Trevor and Matt argued that using technology can make a bad teacher worse, and that statement really resonated with me. I have seen teachers use technology just to keep students busy, or to pass the time. There is no real purpose to why technology is being used, and no deeper learning taking place. Technology is simply being used as a form of distraction or “busy work” tool.

Another key point that sways me to the con side is the idea of screen time overload. As I mentioned above, technology is everywhere.  You wake up and check a cellphone, turn on the television while you eat breakfast to watch the news (or cartoons), go on a computer or tablet to check e-mails, etc.  And this is no different for kids. Children and teens are surrounded by screens, so having them constantly look at a screen during school may not be the best thing for them. Trevor and Matt presented an article about The Digital Gap Between Between Rich Kids and Poor Kids, and it outlined how parents in Silicon Valley are also showing concerns about screen time, and even ensuring their kids are going to schools without technology. It talks about the fears the parents have that their children are part of a huge social experiment, and their increase in screen time is detrimental to their well-being. I understand the need to teach children about technology, and digital literacy, but it is also important that they know how to socialize and converse with people off of a screen. Human relationships should not get lost to screen friendships.

As I’m writing this post, it still remains the same: I am so unsure of what side of the fence I am on.  What I have learned , and what I am taking away from the debate, is this:

  1. Technology can be extremely beneficial in the teaching profession – In the times we’re in, I would have no way of connecting to my students without technology (unless I wanted to go back to good old fashioned snail mail, but that’s not overly practical!) Technology truly does allow for the 5th C Amanda and Nancy spoke to.
  2. BALANCE – I have come to the conclusion that there may not be a right answer. Just like everything else in the world, it requires balance.  There needs to be purpose and meaning when using technology, but there is also no need to completely cut technology from your classroom.
  3. ENHANCE not replace – Above all, technology needs to be there to enhance the learning of students. That teacher/student connection is so crucial, and no screen can replace that.  Technology needs to aid in the teachings going on in the classroom, not become the new teacher.

Overall, like everything else, I can see both sides. Done correctly, I definitely see the advantages to technology in the classroom, and the potential it has to enhance learning. I can also see technology being abused, or misused, and being a deficit to learning.

BALANCE and ENHANCEMENT NOT REPLACEMENT, that’s what I am taking away from this, rather than a definite right or wrong. Either way, I guess it’s safe to say I am still walking the middle of the fence!

8 thoughts on “Technology in the Classroom: Enhancement, NOT Replacement

  1. Hi Amy – I think your three takeaways from the debate are very well said. Technology can be a great tool and enhancement for our work and connection. Your point about balance and the need to have purpose and intent is extremely relevant, otherwise technology can be blamed for distraction when in fact, it is our choice to use it or not.

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  2. Hi Amy, I really appreciate your post. Like you, I am “walking the middle of the fence”. In my opinion, technology is important. It is opening so many doors for so many people. It is a tool that helps transcend many barriers. BUT I also agree that if it is used incorrectly, it can become a nuisance. I believe that most, if not all, human beings crave connections with others. Everyone needs someone to “lean on” when hardship comes along. Sadly, some kids only find positive human relationships at school. So, if we replace teachers with technology, many will suffer. The key word you mentioned in this post is “BALANCE”. We need to find balance when using technology, whether it be in our personal lives or in our classrooms. Staying informed and educated in the subject will definitely help us do this. Thanks for the great post. Certainly, had me thinking.

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  3. Amy, I really appreciate the title to the blog post. I agree completely that whenever we as educators are trying to incorporate something to the classroom (in this case technology), it needs to be done withe the idea of enhancing the learning. Far to many times have I seen a teacher implement technology into the classroom just because it allows them to check off a box that states they have done so. It is in these types of situations where I find that educators replace great content with something that is less relevant or inefficient. There absolutely needs to be a balance in the classroom, where there is a purpose behind the incorporation of technology.

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  4. Wow I love the way you summarized this debate so succinctly ” BALANCE and ENHANCEMENT NOT REPLACEMENT” … I might steal that in my next reflections (and credit you OF course). I like you am walking along the fence, but I truly appreciated the lengths both teams went to to convince me.
    Lastly, (and maybe less importantly) I am so envious of the beautiful and aesthetically pleasing blog you have put together – you told us this was out of your comfort zone, and yet you’ve got blogging skills and a blog better than one I worked all semester on last time around!

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  5. Great blog. How does balance and enhancement take place? Is ok not to use any technology in a classroom? Relationships need to be forged and nurtured and you can’t do that using tech alone for sure. Still tech is a big part of the world and society today and I think we would be doing kids a disservice if the didn’t have opportunities to connect, create, and be curious in that environment as well. I believe that there should be more of an emphasis in teacher education programs on how to effective strike the balance in a classroom so it is an enhancement. Looks like the cat is learning a bit to the right in your gif … is that the pro or con side haha.

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  6. Hi Amy, the thing that really stuck out to me in your blog was the following, “Technology should be there to ENHANCE learning, not REPLACE the teacher. Technology should not take away the role of a teacher, but rather aid in the teachings.” I think it stood out because it fits so nicely with my upcoming debate. We as educators need to find that balance to have meaningful technology connections. Thank you for sharing.

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  7. Thanks for writing such well thought out reflection of the debate last week! You summed up the debate really nicely with your take-aways. I love what you said about the connection that technology brings: “Real stories, from real people, demonstrating just how powerful technology can be to maintain connections through physical distance barriers.” I think your 3 points to summarize your thoughts after the debate are so accurate, and you’re right… technology needs to be integrated in meaningful ways, or else the purpose and potential are lacking. Thanks for wrapping up the debate with this awesome post… and great use of GIFs!

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  8. Amy,

    Great use of GIFs! The made me smile.
    Really thought your summary of the 3 take aways you mentioned were so relevant. I agree that technology can be extremely beneficial in the teaching profession yet especially at these times finding balance professionally and personally is something I still struggle to master.
    BALANCE – I have come to the conclusion that there may not be a right answer. As mentioned in the debate, tech enhancing learning is key with direction.
    Great post! Thanks

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