To tech or not to tech

In our recent Ed Tech class, we had an excellent debate regarding the use of technology in schools and how appropriate the uses might be. The topic was: “Technology in the classroom enhances learning”.  Both sides tackled their stances with justified reasoning.  On the side supporting educational technology in schools, the group was adamant that technology increases student engagement and is a tool necessary for future education and jobs.  Conversely, the group challenging the topic, stated the limitation of resources to be spread out among schools, teachers’ technology skills, and distractibility as potential issues regarding the use of technology.

people woman laptop notebook
Photo by Public Domain Pictures on Pexels.com

I’d like to weigh in on this topic, if I may.  I might be coming to this discussion table with a teaching perspective unique to some others in this course.  When I first started teaching in 1991, there were few computers in the school.  The schools’ computer lab was limited to about 10 computers and they were used mostly for basic programming.  The information gained in the classroom was limited to the books available for us and the knowledge of the teacher. Student engagement was often difficult and often accessibility to demonstration of knowledge for some students with challenges was virtually impossible. I have often thought about one particular student who I taught in about 1993 who struggled with regular programming. He was aptly intelligent but couldn’t demonstrate his knowledge in the traditional ways we were asking. He struggled throughout his education. Ed Tech Makes Education More Accessible

26 years later, I am in a grade 7 classroom and technology is part of our daily routine.  Before I came to Regina Public Schools, I would say that I was using technology to enhance student learning quite regularly.  Students were doing things in their learning that I had never done before.   Students who had difficulty representing their learning in traditional written format were able to represent their learning in video or technological form. We constructed our own webquests and I used SMART technology tools to teach and demonstrate concepts.  Students were generally very engaged, providing teachers were skilled in technology use and implementation.  Fortunately, our division had three instructional technology consultants who came to classrooms and modelled how and why to use different technology according to curricular expectations.

However, whether it be a sign of the economic times or a lower commitment to technology infusion in Regina Public Schools, when I cam here four years ago, I immediately noticed that access to technological learning tools is far more limited.  The dissident side of the debate might win by default here, due to the limited funds available and therefore limited access to technology in our schools. Many of us as teachers seem to have a willingness to embrace technology, and move teachers and students along the SAMR model, however, regular accessibility is a feat in frustration.

Image result for SAMR

It is difficult to engage students in developing healthy and productive routines and use of tech tools, when the use of them is sporadic at best. Further, despite Saskatchewan Government policy regarding equitable accessibility to education Equity in Education:Policy and Framework , the processes to access technology needs for all is daunting to say the least.

If I were to philosophically choose one side of the argument over another, I would definitely say that technology does enhance student learning as it is can be a purposeful tool that engages students in their learning, makes learning more student centred, increases accessibility for students with learning challenges or that require enrichment, and prepares them more readily for a future about which we know little. However, access to technology is limited in some cases and therefore, implementation is often a challenge. Many teachers will simply avoid using technology due to their own tech challenges as well as limited access. What could we do if we could harness technology in a manner that looks toward the future?

Coding, Robotics and Jobs of the Future

That’s my two cents worth… @msreedvp

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7 thoughts on “To tech or not to tech”

  1. Hi Shelly!

    Thanks so much for this thoughtful post. I really enjoyed reading your perspective as someone who has seen technology work it’s way into the classroom. I think even if you disagree with the fact that technology enhances learning, you make a great point about being able to allow all students the opportunity to show their learning with technology. Students who may not have the skills to show their work in a more “traditional” way, may thrive with the assistance of technology. I believe that tech in the classroom has really opened the doors to some amazing things, especially with such diverse classrooms. 🙂

    Thanks again for your post.

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  2. I really enjoyed your perspective Shelly! As a newer teacher, technology in the classroom has always been a way of life for me. Growing up, of course things were different but one of the biggest things I learned in my undergrad was that we were expected to use tech in the classroom. In fact, it was part of our evaluation. We learned about tools and tips for using it, avoiding distractions, etc. Now it seems like a way of life, and you make a great point that access isn’t always easy. I’m lucky that most students at my school can afford to bring their own devices because the school options really aren’t are potent as they should be in a school of 500 students. Lots of our labs are dinged up from inappropriate use or booked for classrooms. Getting access to help my students is limited and I rely heavily on cellphones for activities in my classroom. I love your point on having students use technology to show their learning when they may not be able to show it in the traditional ways. I love giving students this opportunity and I am continually blown away with what some of them can do! Great post, and looking forward to the next one! 🙂

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  3. Shelly, I can only imagine the changes that you must have been a part of in your teaching career with having started with very little tech. I appreciate your reflection on whether or not technology could have helped your former student and the very important point that it can make things more accessible. At the same time, I am disappointed by your observation that Regina Public Schools has limited tools for our use. If you had the power, what would you change?

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    1. Quit honestly, I think the issue lies in how much education is undervalued in general. While I would love to have more regular access to technology, I would also love to see full time librarians, arts education teachers, musical instruments, and roofs that don’t leak every time it rains.
      I realize the current economy dictates how much tax money can be designated for schools. However (and this comes from an avid Rider fan), if a football player gets a quarter of a million a year plus a majestic facility to play in, I am certain the allocation of funds can be redirected to valuing our children and their futures. I do not blame Regina Public Schools in this issue. There is only a certain amount of funding available. However, we, as Saskatchewan citizens, need to change what we value most. This is not just related to tax monies. What about our donations, our investments and our time? Just my two cents worth…

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  4. Hi Shelly, I appreciate your reflections on the advancement of technology in schools over the years. When I began teaching, computer labs where how students accessed technology. I remember being a new teacher trying to figure out what to do in the computer lab. It was quite overwhelming! I also appreciate when you wrote about the student you had with learning challenges. My daughter struggled throughout her schooling. She was diagnosed with a learning disability. I wonder how her learning experience could have been enhanced with the use of technology tools? I have a suspicion that she would have been more engaged and her experience would have been more enjoyable. Thanks for your post Shelly!

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  5. I think no matter how limited we might feel by the technology available to us, wherever we might teach, we have the ability to be ‘creative’ with how we use what we have. This is also, most certainly much easier done in some buildings than others. I think it would be great to see a consistent approach to how tech is dispersed throughout all buildings in one division. Not sure how that might look but I do think it is possible.

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