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.

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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.

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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