Technology in the Classroom Enhances Learning: Yay or Nay?

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.

The vote prior to the debate.

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.

The vote done after the debate.

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.

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Troubling Technology

I have and likely always will stand by the idea that technology is a wonderful additive to the daily lives of the people and that the advancement and usage of technology is important for the future.  However, technology is a double-edged sword. There are right ways to use it, and there are wrong ways to use it. The problem with this is that people don’t know how to handle this double-edged sword. The majority of people can easily go too far off the deep end when it comes to technology. In today’s society, though, I can’t blame them.  Not only has technology become almost indistinguishable from everyday life, but with that, technology has become a lot more scary.

Photo Credit: davidstewartgets Flickr via Compfight cc

In Sherry Turkle’s Ted Talk, “Connected, but alone?”, she talks about the key factor on why I think technology has become ‘scary’ – it has taught us to “…expect more from technology and less from each other.” This factor is the exact reason why people are both drawn in too far and steering clear from technology. To be clear, when I am talking about people are have ‘drawn in too far’ with technology, I am mostly referring to my current age group and younger (so about 20 years and younger, give or take), though it is not only restricted to this particular age group. In Sherry’s Ted Talk, she talks about how she spoke with a younger boy who preferred texting over having a face-to-face conversation. The boy said he disliked normal conversation because you can not form your thoughts before speaking – a conversation is happening in real time. It has become so extreme that a lot today’s youth don’t know HOW to hold a conversation.

Now, I am not going to pretend that I am a conversation master, for I am not. However, basic conversational skills are imperative for day-to-day life, especially once you are an adult. For example, during both job interviews and even just during a normal day at most jobs, you will need to be able to communicate with others effectively. It is a worrying thought that some people depend so much on technology that the idea of basic conversation is terrifying to them.

One thing I have noticed over the past week is how upset people get when you try to have a discussion on the negative impacts of technology. More than one person I’ve talked with in person about technology got fairly defensive when I was talking about the downsides of it.  But again, I can’t blame them. Technology is so ingrained in our lives at this point that it’s almost like talking about the downsides of a family member – you’re attacking something important to them.

Despite the fact that I think technology can be dangerous, I think technology is also a wondrous thing. We have access to practically all the information in the world, ways to communicate with people from across the globe, and sharing and collaborating with others has never been easier. The problem is finding a balance – how much technological use is too much? Where do you draw the line? Unfortunately, it’s extremely hard to say. I think it varies from person to person. The most important part about it is finding your own balance, where you can experience the wonderful parts of existing and future technologies, but still focus on the important aspects of your ‘real life’ – conversation, relationships, and more.

Embrace technology, but do not let it control you.

My Online Presence in 2019

Going into this, I was super curious to see what my current online footprint is like nowadays. We did a very similar blog post about this last year in EDTC300, so coming back over a year later to explore what might be different now is rather exciting.

I figured I would start this post the same way I did last time – with an incognito-mode Google search! And not to my surprise, the result is pretty much the same as last years.

I am nowhere to be found!

Nothing on me. Again, Google thinks my name is being spelled wrong (suggesting Jessie over Jesse), and all the results are related to an event that actually popped up in my first search as well, albeit this time it’s an update rather than the initial reporting. However, even after browsing multiple pages, nothing comes up on me (even when changing the Google search to “Search only for Jesse Simpson”). Maybe there really are just too many Jesse Simpson’s in the world? Perhaps my digital footprint isn’t as big as I would think it is.

To avoid just having a repeat of the EDTC300 post,  the result only changes when I add my old hometown or Regina to the search, and then both my old YouTube account and my blog pop up, but I have to get rather specific while searching for myself for any meaningful results to appear. So instead of that, we should focus on specific websites to see if we cannot get any results. So let’s switch to one of the most popular social media sites of modern society – Facebook!

Screen cap of my Facebook profile

Curious enough, I can’t find my Facebook page if I am not signed in to my own Facebook account. I thought maybe I just was not scrolling enough when searching my name, but I tried copy and pasting the URL to my Facebook page and it would tell me the page could not be found (but would work just fine while signed in). I am not sure why it does this, because I do not have any settings enabled in my privacy settings to disallow people from searching my name or going to my page, so it may just be a Facebook thing.

Anyway, my Facebook page is pretty basic, as far as most Facebook pages go.  Most of my posts are either people tagging me in things or me sharing posts from pages I follow. Constantly making comments on my own life isn’t really my thing, as the people that I care about sharing my life with, I will do personally and privately. For the most part, my Facebook page is just used for keeping in touch with old friends through their posts and Messenger, and following pages that I am interested in (mostly musical groups).

Moving on past Facebook, we have my Twitter page. Looking at my most recent post, you can tell how much I REALLY use Twitter (my most recent post was December 2017. Oops!) Working on being more active in the Twitterverse is something I want to work on through this year, as even though I had set it up during my first year, I’ve used it extremely sparingly, both in sharing my own thoughts and ideas as well as browsing other peoples ideas. Regardless of how much I’ve used my Twitter page, searching my name on Twitter actually has me as one of the top search results, so my account is not hard to find. Hopefully by the end of the semester, my Twitter page will have much more professional content on it that can be used to strengthening my Personal Learning Network.

The only other biggest form of social media I can think of is Instagram, but exploring myself on that is fairly difficult as I do not actually have an Instagram account. This might be somewhat surprising, especially in 2019 where the vast majority of young people seem to have one, but the concept of Instagram does not particularly interest me (which is kind of funny, because I do like my fair share of Snapchat which is a fairly similar “sharing pictures” concept).

All in all, my digital footprint has not really grown since I started building my PLN last year. Obviously there are a few more places where you can find me (like on Twitter or on my blog), but in regards to doing a quick search for me on Google, it has not really changed. However, this year will hopefully show a lot more growth for my PLN so maybe by the end of the year, my name will actually show up on a Google search when you search for Jesse Simpson.

 

Fifth Reading Response

Something I learned while reading this chapter was just how much poverty affects a child growing up. There are the obvious negative effects, like very little family support, very little money for food, and others like that, but the thing I never considered was that poverty affects a child before they are even born, as families in poverty have less access to good prenatal and infant health care. On top of this, children in poverty are more likely to be exposed to both legal and illegal drugs before birth. When you know this, you realize how children in poverty are essentially put ten steps back behind children who are not in poverty right from the get go.

Another thing I learned was about stereotype threat, where when a stereotyped individual is in a situation where a stereotype applies, they bear an extra emotional and cognitive burden. As a white male, I’ve never really had to think about any stereotypes I might have (aside from the “Canadian’s always apologize” stereotype, but that is quite different and less taxing to think about), so I’ve never thought about how much burden a stereotyped individual might have when they are put into a scenario where others may judge them based on that stereotype.

One more thing I learned while reading this chapter was the term gender schema. I’ve heard of the concept before – an organized network of knowledge about what it means to be male or female – but I don’t believe I’ve ever heard a term associated with it before. The thing that interests me the most is how early gender schema is introduced into children’s lives, which is around age 5.  It really goes to show how socially constructed our society is that even young children can pick up on the social cues between genders.

One thing I had connected with during the reading was the differences between ethnicity and race. This was something I have discussed with other classmates in a class I took in my first year, so the differences between the two is something I am already aware of, that being, ethnicity is a group’s shared common cultural characteristics, and race being a category composed of those who share biologically transmitted traits. One thing new to me in this section, however, is that the term ‘minority group’ refers to both ethnicities and races, as I thought it only referred to races and not ethnicities.

Something else I connected with is the idea behind gender bias. Again, this is something that I have discussed at length with classmates in a previous education class. Gender bias is having more representation on one gender over the other. Despite the movements to remove it from schools, gender bias still pops up every now and again, whether it be through book covers, titles or videos shown in class. Gender bias also shows up in teaching, as studies have shown that teachers give much more attention to boys over girls. This is true for all levels of school, from preschool all the way to university or college.

One question I still have after the reading is regarding the single-sex classrooms that it talks about in the text. The text states that studies have shown that single-sex classrooms benefit the students learning, but I wonder what kind of effects it would have on one’s social life? Would only being around same sex classmates/peers affect them in any way, and would it be a negative or a positive change?

Third Reading Response

One thing I learned while reading this chapter is perhaps one of the biggest topics of the chapter; the concepts of self-efficacy and self-regulation. Despite these topics being such a huge part of the educational world, this is the first time I’ve been introduced to them, which is interesting because the concepts of the other self-schema are a lot more common to hear about, both in a school environment or through the media. Before reading this chapter, I was completely unaware of both self-efficacy and self-regulation, including how the sense of self-efficacy and self-regulation in both teachers and students affects how they teach and learn respectively.

Another thing I learned in regards to self-regulation was the cycle of self-regulated learning. Going from analyzing the task, to setting goals and creating plans to complete a task is something that I didn’t think was terribly uncommon. After learning about self-regulation through the text, I would say that I have a fairly strong sense of self-regulation and can connect with the ideas presented about it. As such, the strategies stated in the cycle are fairly common to me subconsciously, but to see it actually printed out is a little foreign and strange since I’ve never really had to think about it before.

One more thing I learned about this chapter are the influences of self-regulation. One thing that interested me the most about this was that motivation and volition are considered separate ideas. I had always considered them to be practically the same thing, more specifically I considered volition the same or extremely similar to motivation.  However, reading into a bit more, it appears to me that while volition is more of a conscious decision, motivation is more unconscious

Something I connected with aside from self-regulation is the idea behind modelling. Similarly to Piaget’s Theory from a few chapters ago, I also learned quite a bit about modelling in my high school Psychology class. However, we did not quite as in depth with modelling as the text presents it. Something that is new to me about the concept of modelling is the consequences of a model’s actions and the observer’s expectations about performing said actions. From the way I understood it before, it was a simple reenactment of what they saw, not necessarily taking into account any risk or rewards.

One question I have after reading the chapter is do with this new knowledge of modelling that the chapter has shown me: Will a very young child (say, around a year old) still take into account risk vs. reward when it comes to modelling? Even though at that point, they may not have gone through as much mental or cognitive development, is it still “innate” to consider the consequences or rewards of ones actions?

Second Reading Response

In this weeks reading, we read about how children develop physically, socially, and how children shape their identity and self-concept. One topic in the reading that was new to me was the difference between self-concept and self-esteem. As the reading states, I believed the two terms were interchangeable, but that is not quite the case.

Something I found interesting was the section on why students cheat. As a budding teacher, learning why students would cheat despite the risks associated with it, and when students are more or less likely to cheat is fairly useful and rather interesting to learn about.

One other topic that caught my eye in the reading was that girls mature faster than boys. I’m not positive why, but I had always thought it was the other way around. One reason I could possibly think of was because I thought myself as more “mature” because I was confident in my maturity, and I took that concept of my own “maturity” and applied it to all boys, but I am not entirely certain.

Something the article talked about that I was somewhat previously aware of was the differences in self-concept for boys and girls. In most schools, it’s fairly easy to see what the article states: more boys in things such as sports, and more girls in things like the arts. My school was no different, in fact; though there were quite a few from both sides in each group.

Another thing I connected with was how the media affects child development. With the modern world being engulfed with the media and the way it portrays people, it’s only natural that it effects the way children behave or develop; for most children, the media is a heavy part of their life, basically from birth.

One question that I have after reading the article is about the development of morals. Specifically, how long (on average) does it take to move from the stage of ‘moral realism’ to ‘morality of cooperation’? The article mentions that it is a “gradual shift”, but does not outright state any timeline.  On top of that, with it being a “gradual shift”, do children fully understand the concept, or do bits and pieces of the concept come over time?

First Reading Response

In this weeks readings, we read about brain and cognitive development of children and the argument about nature versus nurture in regards to how a child best develops. One topic in the reading I particularly found interesting was the division on the different kinds of developments; that being, physical development, personal development and social development. Most people don’t think of ones development as being different stages, most just lump it all into one form of development, where there are in fact, more than that.  I also learned about Vygotsky’s Sociocultural Perspective and the differences between his and Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development. Specifically, Vygotsky focused much more on the environment and cultural surrounding a child, whereas Piaget’s focus leaned toward human nature, as in genetics. Another topic the reading touched on was the importance of brain and cognitive of development in relation to teachers. Understanding how a child’s brain develops is a very handy thing to know when deciding on how you are to teach a subject, as you can avoid things that may be lost on a not fully developed brain.

During the reading, there were quite a few connections I made back to my Psychology 30 class I took in Grade 11 of High School. I distinctively remember learning about Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development, specifically the four stages of cognitive development (Sensorimotor, Preoperational, Concrete Operational, and Formal Operational). We focused on those four stages quite heavily when I took that course, though I am not entirely positive if we ever talked about Vygotsky’s. Another connection I made was specifically on page 42, figure 2.4 – the diagram of the the tasks given to children, the change of situations, and the questions that are asked to the children. I don’t remember exactly what class or year it was, but during my middle school years, I recall watching a few clips of these sorts of situations and learning very briefly on brain and cognitive development. Obviously, at the time we were developed enough to understand the “correct” answers to the scenarios, but did not really consider the importance of brain and cognitive development.

One question I have after the reading is in regards to the research of cognitive development not featured in the book. Are there any other, perhaps less well-known but still credible theories of cognitive development? The “nature plus nurture” theory seems pretty sound, but when it comes to the theoretical, it is always interesting to read multiple different angles on a subject.

School Field Placement – Response

[Written on March 19th, 2018]

Over the past few weeks, I have been attending St. Catherine’s Community School for my field placement. At the school, I, along with my partner, Rachel Paterson, have been helping with two classrooms – The grade 1 classroom taught by Sarah Ross, and the grade 1 and 2 classroom taught by Angela La. Usually, the two of us split up and we each help one of the classrooms with whatever they require help with, whether it’s doing one on one with a particular student, helping a variety of students with testing, or just roaming the classroom and making sure all the students are staying on topic. Last week, however, – on March 13th – Rachel and I had to take on a slightly more taxing task.

We had asked if we could lead the classes in doing some sort of craft a couple weeks prior, and with St. Patrick’s Day coming up, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to get some experience leading a class. Sarah and Angela helped us find a craft for the students to do, and Rachel and I planned out how we were going to teach it to all the kids and how we were going to organize it. Planning it out turned out to be the easiest part, as the craft was a simple one. We planned to break the class into two groups, and each group would be doing a different part of the craft, and then the groups would switch and do the other part of the craft. Then at the end, we planned to all come together in one big group and finish up a small part of the craft to finish the craft.

On the day we did the craft, we came into the first class that we were doing it in, – the grad 1 classroom – and Sarah started the class with doing attendance and getting everyone calmed down from recess. Once that was done, we went up to the front of the class and began explaining the craft. For the most part, Rachel led the explanation of the craft. She was able to explain it slowly in a way that all the kids were easily able to understand. When she was done explaining her part, I took over and began explaining my part. It was sort of easy to explain my part, since I had brought up an extra copy of the craft to the front and showed them exactly how to do it. After we were finished explaining, we broke the kids up into two groups and we got to work.

All in all, everything went well. While we couldn’t finish the entire craft, we were able to get all the major parts finished, and all that was left was a small part at the very end. After we were finished in the grade 1 classroom, we went into the grade 1 and 2 classroom and did the craft all over again. After doing it once before, we were able to lead the class a lot more efficiently, as we were both a lot more confident about leading a class than we had been before. Again, we didn’t have enough time to finish everything in the second class, but we were able to get most of it done. Leading a class was new and scary for the both of us, but with a little bit of hard work and some teamwork between the two of us, it all went smoothly and, in the end, turned out to be a rather fun experience.

Leroy Little Bear: Jagged – Reading Response

[Written on February 26th, 2018]

In this reading, I was able to learn about and explore deeper into aboriginal worldviews that I was previously not very knowledgeable on. One such idea that was new to me was the idea of all things being in ‘constant motion’. The idea at it’s core isn’t particularly new, but the implication behind it is something that I’d never learned up before, that being that when things are constantly moving, you must look at the whole to see patterns and understand how life functions. Another idea that I found incredibly interesting is the foundation of truth in the Aboriginal worldview. Truth is important is practically every worldview, but the emphasis they put on the importance of truth is rather interesting. While truth is important in, for example, my worldview, something like a tiny white lie would likely not affect me or most things in a huge way. In an Aboriginal worldview, however, something like a tiny white lie may greatly affect the harmony and balance in their societies. The contrast between the level of importance in truth between worldviews is extremely interesting.

One thing I found slightly problematic in the reading was the claim about objective knowledge. The author claims that there is no such thing as objective knowledge, “…because anything you claim to know is your knowledge alone,” (11, Bear). To be fair, the author claims that this rejective of objective knowledge is ‘the short answer’, so there may be more to this claim than what is apparent, but I find the claim that there is no such thing as objective knowledge slightly off. I can agree with objective knowledge not pertaining to things such as experiences or opinions, but when it comes to subjects like math’s and science’s, objectivity is key. In math, for example, the answer to the question ‘3×5’ isn’t something that is up for debate. The answer is a firm ‘15’. This is an objective answer and not one that can be changed do to someone’s experiences or worldviews. However, I still see where the author is coming from, as in most circumstances, subjectivity is needed to further explore an idea. You could almost say things like math and science are exceptions to the rule. Regardless, I felt that saying there is no such thing as objective knowledge in any cases is going a little off the deep-end, because while it may be true in a lot of cases, it is not true in all cases.

To counter the aspect of the article I found problematic, I want to leave off with a message from the reading that I found rather profound. It’s simple, but I feel like it sums up a rather large part of the Aboriginal worldview rather well, and while reading this small message won’t give you as deep of an understanding as reading the entire article, this single message is still a great summary that I believe is important.

“If you want to be part of the spider web of relations, speak the truth.”

Muffins for Granny – Reading Response

[Written on February 4th, 2018]

Residential schools aren’t a new concept to me. I have been told about them countless times over the years in classes, on the news, on the internet, and more. However, hearing about the horror stories and seeing how painful it is to recount these events from people who experienced them puts an entirely new perspective on just how real and terrifying residential schools were. It is totally different hearing about residential schools and their impact from people who were impacted personally and how the scars of the schools remain. Leaning from someone who is just relaying information, you can understand that the things that happened really happened, but hearing it from someone who was actually there, you get this emotional connection to the person and the events that happened that isn’t possible otherwise.

One of the people who really sticks out to me is the one gentleman with the long hair with the grey highlights. He sticks out to me because he is always smiling. No matter how the grim the events he’s talking about are, he continues to smile. For example, even when talking about how his father was jailed for trying to protect his children, or when he tried to commit suicide and nearly succeeded, he still has a smile on his face. I have no real evidence for it, but my guess is that his smiling is a coping mechanism to cope with these horrible events that happened throughout his life. As long as he has a smile on his face, he will be able to deal with anything that life may through at him or any event that may try and haunt him. His constant smile sticks out to me as something incredible, as being able to smile so brightly after everything he has been through is extremely inspirational.

In terms of the documentary itself, the way it’s laid out is rather different compared to most documentaries I have seen. It is different in the way that it presents the information that seems important to the documentary at a first glance. The documentary is titled Muffins for Granny, so one may believe that the documentary will focus on the producers/writer’s grandmother and her experiences with life. However, the story of the grandmother is just a set piece for a larger story – the one on residential schools. It is interesting in the way that most documentaries, or at least the ones I have seen, are fairly evident what they will be about just by reading the title. Muffins for Granny, however, isn’t immediately apparent without either seeing the documentary or reading a synopsis. Even though we were told the documentary was going to be about residential schools, I still expected parts about the grandmother to take the main stage. However, they were more a background setting for a much deeper investigation into the story and experiences of residential schools. I think the way that Muffins for Granny lays itself out is rather genius, as it sets up expectations of a story that, while met, also introduces an important story that ends up taking the main stage.