The Great Ed Tech Debate of 2019 opened up this past week, and it started strong with a rather doozy of a question. Does technology in the classroom enhance learning? This is a really interesting question, especially for a class that is devoted to using technology in the classroom. Nonetheless, going into the debate, I expected the results to be highly in favor of technology enhancing learning – again, we WERE in an educational technology classroom. My guess did not disappoint, judging by the results of the pre-vote.
Most of us taking this class have grown up in a school environment where we have used technology – whether it be computers, smart boards, or tablets, they’ve been a major part of our learning experiences from a rather young age. It really is no surprise that the pre-vote was (almost!) entirely in favor of technology in the classroom. Regardless, the debate had not started yet, so there was still lots of time for Raeann to turn the tides.
And turn the tides she did!
By the end of the debate, there had been a huge turnover from those who voted in favor of technology in the classroom. I think that is because, on its own, the idea of technology in the classroom is very attractive. However, once you start getting into the nitty gritty details of technology, it can seem rather problematic in some ways.
Nonetheless, let’s get into those details, with arguments for and against the idea that ‘Technology in the classroom enhances learning’!
Technology Enhances Learning: Arguments
This side of the debate, led by Ashlee, was ahead going into the debate, with the pre-votes largely being on her side. One argument toward using technology in the classroom is how commonplace technology has become in our day-to-day lives. It is very unlikely that you can walk down a street and not see someone using their cell phone, or go into a house and not see a device that can access the internet (whether that’s a phone, a computer, or even smart televisions). Since it is such a big part of our lives, it makes sense to integrate that into our school lives.
George Couros’ article, ‘As Technology Becomes Easier to Use, Our Depth of Learning Needs to Continue to Increase’, talks about how technology has become easier to use over time. This is very true – the example Couros gives is the fact that iPhone’s don’t come with manuals, because they have been made to be so simple that you shouldn’t ever need to consult a manual. This mindset is not exclusive to the Apple line of devices anymore, pretty much every form of technology being made today is made with simplicity in mind (aside from some very specific enthusiast lines of technology, but those are so specific that they’re practically a non-factor in the argument). This ease of use for technologies is why they are such an attractive thing to use in the classroom – they are very easy to use, very easy to learn, and very convenient all at the same time.
Perhaps the biggest argument in favor of using technology in the classrooms is their depth. Technology can do so many different things that provide usefulness in the classroom, like having access to pretty much all the information in the world thanks to the internet. Another example of its usefulness is shown in the ‘Google Forms a teacher/student connection’ video by Google.
The video shows how, using technology, a teacher can form better connections with their students and get a better understanding of how they perceive school and how everything is going in their personal lives (without revealing too much personal information). This is just a couple of many things you can do with technology that can prove useful in a classroom setting.
Technology DOES NOT Enhance Learning: Arguments
On the flip side, there are quite a few arguments against using technology in the classroom. The article, ‘The Dark Side of Educational Technology’ focuses on quite a few of these problems. One of these problems is the entrance barrier into most technologies – money. Purchasing new technologies is VERY expensive, especially for a school that has to purchase enough for all of its students. The worst part is how fast that technologies become outdated. This is especially prevalent in the world of tablets, with even what are currently ‘brand new iPad’s’ being at risk of being outdated in two or three generations (especially considering how Apple, among other companies, degrades performance and usability on older devices with new updates to the software). This would mean having to buy a new series of iPad’s every few years for students, which is NOT an inexpensive task.
Moving away from schools, the cost of technologies can be a problem for the individual student at home. The aforementioned article mentions that, even in today’s world of technology, not every student has access to internet in their homes. This can be a big problem if an assignment requires the use of researching using the internet, or other online technologies. Further than that, money could also been an issue when it comes to purchasing technologies in the first place. Online assignments aside, how is a student to do an essay that is to be typed if they do not have a computer at home, and no way to go to school early or stay late (such as being a bus student and unable to find a ride to come to school early or stay late)?
So is Technology A Good Thing for the Classroom?
It’s honestly really hard to say.
I think the pros of technology in the classroom are fantastic. Being able to use the internet, computers and tablets to learn is incredible, as it allows you to do your learning in a format that most people are comfortable with. Plus, for those students who have these technologies at home, they can take their work and their learning home with them and continue to learn outside of school hours.
However, the cons of technology in the classroom are fairly problematic when trying to introduce technology. With the cost of technologies, plus the possible unavailability at home, I think having technology in the classroom can be a hindrance, especially to the students who do not and have not had the exposure to technology that most students do throughout their youth.
It is really hard for me to make a decision on whether or not I am for or against technology in the classroom. The pros are fantastic, but the cons weigh those down heavily. As such, I remain somewhat neutral on the subject for the time being. While I think technology in the classroom is a great thing, I think it is wrong to depend on it too much, as it could hinder the learning of some students, while maybe only being a slight enhancement to the rest.