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.