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!
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
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
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!