The Great Ed-Tech Debate of 2019 commenced this week with the topic of whether or not technology in the classroom enhances learning up for discussion. Originally, I did not expect this subject to draw up much controversy within our EDTC 400 class because the course is focused on integrating technology into teaching and learning, and thus, I anticipated that we would all lean towards agreeing with the positive side of the statement. The pre-vote that was conducted showed my anticipation was correct as only one member of my class disagreed that technology enhances learning. Fortunately, the purpose of the debate was a success as we were able to critically think about the topic under discussion, openly consider both sides of the debate and left the conversation with less of a concrete opinion on whether or not technology truly does enhance learning. Personally, I did not switch my vote but many members of my class did as some excellent arguments were made that challenged our initially biased opinion. Professor Katia explained how it is “very easy to start poking holes into arguments” and how this topic is not meant to be looked at in a “black and white fashion.” The final result of our vote provides proof that there are valid arguments to both sides of the subject and reminds us as educators that we must cautiously consider our beliefs before implementing them into our teaching environments. Below I discuss some of the major arguments made during our discussion and some of my personal thoughts regarding the topic.
The first point I want to address was critical to our discussion and something we all needed to be reminded of prior to sharing our views. The topic at hand was whether or not technology ENHANCES learning with the keyword being ‘enhance’ meaning further improve the quality, value, or extent of learning. Although the topics are related, there are different arguments focusing on whether or not technology should be in the classroom making it critical to remember the keyword ‘enhance’ and focus our attention to it.
Arguments for the Pro Side
Global Collaboration: Technology allows individuals to connect with anyone around the world, and thus, provides students with access to learn from experts of the particular field they are studying in. As an example, Ashlee drew our attention to a heartwarming Speaking Exchange CNA video where students in Brazil connect with seniors in the United States to develop their English speaking skills. This would never have been possible without the use of technology and even if there were skilled English teachers at their school the students still would have missed out on opportunities. Every student was partnered with a senior permitting the students to receive one on one learning opportunities which would have been impossible for an educator to provide to the same extent. The students also were able to teach their partners some of their first language providing them with another opportunity to learn through the teaching which helps to develop deep understandings. In situations such as this, technology provides contemporary possibilities that enhance learning for everyone involved.
Technology as a Resource: Educators are able to use technology as a resource in their classrooms in many ways. In an article titled 8 Ways Technology is Improving Education, the author expresses how through technology we have access to simulations, models, and virtual manipulatives which all offer beneficial visual representations in a timely fashion. For example, when teaching a lesson on fractions, instead of teachers having their students draw pie graphs for every change in the denominator a virtual manipulative could be used to save time and represent the relationships between various fractions which would permit deeper understandings of the lesson being taught. In my EMTH 200 course, the ability to reflect on and extend problems beyond finding the solution is highly emphasized. With the use of technology, students are able to extend problems beyond the means of the classroom and make global connections to the topic under study providing them with more beneficial learning opportunities. Technology can also be used as a resource for communication providing for a collaborative learning environment and allowing students to connect with one another and their teachers. By encouraging open communication and building relationships within the classroom, students may become more engaged in their learning and have the desire to participate which ultimately will lead to enhanced learning possibilities.
Multimedia Representations: It is commonly known that all students are unique and have various learning style preferences. By presenting subject material through various multimedia representations, educators can adhere to the varying learning needs of their students. Courts and Tucker discuss how Audio (voiceovers and podcasts), videos, simulations, and blogs can be expanded and used to enhance learning for all students in their journal about technology in the classroom. Multimedia can be integrated at simple and static levels such as using power points or sharing videos but it can also encourage active learning through the use of simulations and digital conversations. By incorporating multimedia representations into classrooms, educators can also design lessons to include the interests of their students which again permits engagement and thus the quality of learning available for students.
Arguments for the Con Side
Technology as a Distraction: We all have experienced technology distracting us in one way or another in our daily lives. By incorporating technology into the classroom, students may be distracted by the flashy visuals and sound effects. Technology can also cause distractions in the classroom when it fails to operate smoothly. I remember teachers struggling to load videos or connect to audio being a frequent occurrence in my classrooms thus permitting time for my classmates and me to visit but causing everyone to be off topic and teachers having difficulty regaining the class’ focus. Julia Klaus’ article explains how students often become caught up in the excitement of technology and forget that the purpose of having it in the classroom is still for learning.
Cheating, Plagiarism & Academic Dishonesty: Reanne brought our class’ attention to an idea that I would never have thought of myself, but believe that it is critical to consider. Providing students access to technology gives them means to google any question they have been assigned with answering and we all know it is not difficult to copy and paste it without having to think for ourselves. Students also have more means to share answers with one another through devices without the teachers knowing they are doing so. In Mathew Lynch’s article, he states “students often do not think that what they are doing is wrong” when using modern-day methods such as Google to cheat. Some educators do lesson appropriate use of technology and academic conduct but this takes away from their time to teach curriculum objectives which can also be problematic.
Ill Considered when Implemented: Personally, I believe this is the strongest argument for the opposing side. Students who do not have devices available to them at home may be inexperienced in skills such as typing or researching topics which will put them behind in course work if this is expected from them for assignments. In Technology, But Not for All, Liz Riggs mentions how despite the intention of educational technology being to “level the playing field”, there are studies that show the achievement gap between rich and poor students is growing due to the implementation of technology in classrooms. The internet has become an incredibly popular commodity but there is still a digital divide that exists leaving low-income families with less technological access and knowledge. Educators cannot expect that all of their students have access to the internet and are equally comfortable performing tech-savvy skills. Photo Credit: verchmarco Flickr via Compfight cc
It is undeniable that technology plays a critical role in the 21st-century society that we are living in, and to quote John Dewey, an inspirational education theorist, “If we teach students today, as we did yesterday, we are robbing them of tomorrow.” Technology did not always exist which is why traditionalist educators continue to argue that it is not required to provide high-quality learning without it, however, the world has changed and it is crucial that education adapts to these changes to provide students with skills applicable to today. By utilizing technology in the classroom to enhance learning, educators provide there students with a glimpse at the wonderful powers of technology and the endless possibilities that it provides us with.
After being exposed to arguments for both sides to the question; “does technology enhance learning?” my personal belief is that it can. I am not a firm believer that it always will and I do believe that there are implications that must be addressed but I have faith that when implemented correctly, the POTENTIAL for technology to ENHANCE learning is incredibly high. As a future educator, I am grateful for the opportunity to learn how to correctly implement technology into my future teaching environments so that I can hopefully provide all of my students with the best learning opportunities in the years to come. Thank you, Ashlee and Reanne, for leading an awesome discussion and engaging our class to develop new insights and perspectives. After just one debate, I recognize the value in being able to discuss important topics from directly opposing sides and look forward to having my beliefs be challenged and gaining more new perspectives in the weeks to come!