So this week, we had the first of several Great EdTech Debates. This weeks topic………
*insert drum roll noise here*………….
Does technology in the classroom enhance learning?
Going into this debate, I wasn’t sure if technology in the classroom enhances or hinders learning. Personally, I haven’t had too much experience in the classroom. Aside from internship, I covered a maternity leave for two months and my current job as an RtI Coach has me out of the classroom. So I haven’t really spent much time teaching in a classroom and using technology within it. However, one thing I have noticed with my current job is that when I am in classrooms and the students are using technology, most of the time they are on mathletics or RAZ Kids. 9 times out of 10 they are not doing what they are supposed to be doing. So I guess if I had to decide which side I was on before going into this debate, I would say that I would be leaning more towards the hinders learning side of things but still close to in the middle.
But now that the debate is over and both sides had been presented, I would say that I lean more towards the enhances learning. Technology is so useful and always at our fingertips. This has me thinking of an experience I had today. I was subbing in a grade 1/2/3 social studies class and their task as to draw a picture of an Olympic athlete that inspires them or their favorite Olympic sport. As a sub I do not always have access to the computer, but I do have my iPhone. So when the students would ask questions about what different Olympic sports were, or what a specific athlete looked like, I was able to Google it right then and there without having to try and log onto a computer! As a sub I really appreciate technology and the fact that smartphones exist.
Technology has allowed for this new way of taking something that the students are interested in and rolling with it right then and there. A good example of this is found at the start of this article by Brain Braiker. A kindergarten student finds a spider in the sink during playtime and the teacher suggests taking a closer look at the spider under the microscope. The students are very excited about this and they use a a digital microscope which connects to a laptop to get a better view of the spider. Sure the classroom teacher could have used your typical microscope but in a kindergarten classroom that would have been chaos. This way, all students can look at the same time and the chaos is avoided.
Now with every debate there is a negative side to the subject. People have argued that kids are becoming addicted and that they spend too much time in front of a screen. Both of these are very valid concerns and sure, people are dealing with them. Some parents do not let their kids have any screen time at home to hopefully avoid this addiction. However, these kids seem to be the ones who always end up spending their free time at school on the computers. My mom has experienced this first hand. The library computer lab would be filled at recess time with students who do not get as much screen time at home as others. Kids are going to come across technology. In today’s world it is kind of hard to avoid it. Students are expected to use it and lots of schools are implementing Bring Your Own Tech (BYOT) policies. Try finding a college student who doesn’t need to use the internet for something at some point during their degree. Take the University of Regina for example. UR Courses is used in almost every class and the classes that don’t generally use some sort of online space. These online spaces are used to enhance the learning of students through discussion forums and email.
So to sum it all up, technology, in my opinion, can be used to enhance learning in the classroom. Technology can take us to places, before were not even possible. You can go anywhere with the help of Google Earth, look up anything with the push of a few buttons and even, take virtual reality tours of places far, far away. In the classroom, technology can be used to enhance the learning of students through various applications such as Mathletics, RAZ Kids, and Scratch. What makes it even better is that the students get so excited to use these applications. So not only does it enhance their learning but it gets them excited to learn. I just think that we as teachers need to watch how we have the students use it. We need to make sure we show students how to use technology in a positive manner and that it is something that is actually going to enhance their learning rather than use it as something to just keep them busy. Like it mentions in Braiker’s article, the message, not the medium is what is important when using technology. This is something we as educators need to keep in mind when using technology in our classrooms. We can use whatever medium we want to get our lesson across, but it is the message we are sending to students that is important.
So what do you think? Does using technology in the classroom enhance student’s learning?