Last week, we began the section of our class for the “Great EdTech Debates” with Megan & I kicking things off. The topic of the first debate was : does technology enhance learning in the classroom? Going into the debate, I was strongly on the agree side that I represent, but I was interested in hearing the points that Nicole & Daryl would present! For these blogs posts, I will be breaking down the arguments that each team presented as well as giving my final thoughts. I am going to title these sections the Yay-Team and the Nay-Team because I think that’s fun to say.
During this debate, Megan and I presented many reasons why we believe that technology enhances learning in the classroom. To come up with our main points, we condensed the ideas presented by Domingo & Garganté (2016), McKnight et al., (2016), Cullen (2022), Brown’s TedTalk, and our own personal experiences as educators. Here are the main reasons why we believe that technology enhances education:
- Access to information and resources
Learning is enhanced since teachers are more easily able to find relevant and engaging resources. Students are also able to use technology to find information on their own.
- Increases engagement
Students are often times more engaged when technology is used in the classroom. Many students enjoy watching videos or playing online review games instead of listening to their teacher present the information.
- Skills for success
Technology is super present in society today and almost any job uses it in some way. Students using technology now will have an easier time going into the workforce as they already have some base skills developed.
- Promotes collaboration and communication
Students can use online tools to collaborate and create group work easily, even if they are not together in person. The internet and other tools available give endless possibilities to how we can connect, interact, and learn from others all over the world.
- Restructures teacher time
Access to technology can save teachers a lot of time if they know how to use their tools properly. Teachers can use tools to mark their assignments, quickly calculate final grades, communicate with parents, plan lessons, and find resources. Having to spend less time on these things allows us more time to focus on student relationships and engagement which in turns enhances student learning.
There are so many assistive technologies that exist both on and off the computer that help students to be able to demonstrate their understanding, engage at school, and not feel left behind. These technologies are crucial for enhancing the learning of many students.
Here are some of the points that Nicole & Daryl presented as to why technology does not enhance learning:
- Students can be easily distracted when using technology
Technology can be a distraction for students as it gives them easy opportunities to become unfocused and disconnect from the task at hand. I agree with this, however I think that the individual teacher/school policy and expectations can have a major impact on how much of an issue this is in the classroom.
- Connections made online are superficial
Connections made online aren’t real and are not authentic. Personally, I disagree with this statement as my fiancé has many friends that he met online and only connected with thought a screen for many years and I know he would feel offended if I was to say they are not real conenctions. However, I can also see the impact that technology has had on relationships and interactions in everyday life. For example, when people are out at a party or for dinner there are often many people on their devices instead of present in the moment.
- Technology has caused a lack of social skill development in children
There have definitely been many studies on how technology has impacted students and children developmentally. Based off my experience with children, I can see some of these impacts such as low attention span, lack of social discussion skills, and the need for instant gratification. I do think that technology has had an impact on the development of young children, however this is not only something that comes from technology use at school- there must also be a large use of technology at home from a young age to see these issues (in my opinion).
- Mental health issues caused by technology are on the rise
The use of technology has lead to many mental health concerns and connects to issues such as bullying, anxiety, depression, and suicide. I do think that technology does impact our mental health and that it can amplify theses existing issues, however I question how much of a role the technology used in the classroom affects this?
- There has not been substantial improvement in achievement or graduation rates since technology has become more popular in classrooms
I found this argument to be the most intriguing as it is something I had not thought of before. I wonder why there are not many studies that seem to be available on this topic? I will elaborate more below.
Overall, I think that these are some great arguments/points to some downfalls caused by technology. However, I don’t think they are all relevant when focusing specifically on technology use in the classroom. I don’t believe that students are using these technologies in the classroom enough for theses mental health issues or the lack of social skills to be developed solely at school, I believe a lot of this come from home technology use.
The point that I did find the most interesting is that there has not been a substantial change in achievement or graduation rates since technology has become more popular. This comment from the video was cited as Storm (2021), but no where in the article was I able to find data on this fact. The closest I saw was a reference to another study about how technology integration helped with student engagement and that the study’s results “showed that digital educational resources have affordances that might help to transform education, yet technology-based school reform has not yet brought long-lasting educational change.” Storm continued by saying that it is worth exploring the results and that this specific study helped to show that “technology itself can not increase student learning.” I do find this to be an interesting topic to explore, but it appears that the author is making a blanket statement with only one small study references to back up this claim.
One point that I was surprised did not come up in the debate was the topic of online safety. To me, I think this could be one of the biggest counter arguments to this topic. I know that many teachers and parents worry about children’s safety on the internet as well as the types of data and such that are being collected, stored and distributed by these websites and apps that are often used to enhance learning. As this was our debate topic, I did have some counter arguments prepared such as how schools and parents both need to take the time to teach students how to use technology safely and be good digital citizens. Additionally, many schools will implement add blockers and programs to help protects students from things that are “inappropriate” from coming up when using a school device. Lastly, many school do have an approved software list indicating which websites and apps have safety/privacy policies that school boards have accepted as “safe” for use at school without parental permission.
While perusing the many articles that were shared by the disagree side, I can clearly see that they are many possible downsides to the use of technology. But again, I don’t think that there are many arguments to be made in relation to whether technology enhances learning at school. I have seen so many ways that technology can benefit the learning of my students, as well as my own instruction and learning, that I can’t disagree with this statement. I do think that technology does not need to be used for everything, as Megan and Tracy said – balance is key. Educators need to be using technology appropriately and they may require additional training to do so. They also need to be teaching and enforcing boundaries and expectations for students when it comes time to use technology in the classroom. All in all, I think that there are many reason why technology in the classroom enhances education and that it is something worth using even if there are some downfalls.
Here are some questions that came to mind during the debate/while thinking of things presented this week:
1) I find technology is not a huge distraction in my school’s classrooms due to the policies we have in place. Students at my school are not allowed personal devices during the day.
Does your school allow students to have personal devices during the day? If so, do you wish they didn’t?
2) What things do you consider to be ‘technology’ in relation to education?
I know this came up during our debate and although it is subjective, I think many people were only thinking about things such as phones, tablets, and computers.