Tech in Classrooms?

Debate #1

Our first debate took place Tuesday May 19 and the topic was “technology in the classroom enhances learning.”  Both groups did a fantastic job and modeled excellent debate formats.

The agree side – Nancy and Amanda, began with a video that was meant to pull on our heartstrings and emotionally connect us to the topic.  A great strategy!  The premise was that technology can connect teachers and students (and others) through times when they can’t physically be together.  In the video, the teacher had a broken leg and was working from home, but many of us can relate to this in our current situation.  Their main arguments for using technology to enhance learning were the 5 cs – critical thinking skills, collaboration, communication, creativity, and connection.  They really focused on connection.  I think this was an easy point to push right now given that we’re remote teaching.  They kept coming back to the idea that technology connects students to their lessons, to each other, and to the teacher.  They stated, “technology helps us bring meaning and that’s what helps enhance learning.”20200521_102850

The disagree side – Trevor and Matt took a different approach to introducing their arguments.  Their intro video was designed to be an attack ad against Nancy and Amanda and their side of the argument.  It made them appear inferior, like they can’t be trusted, right down to the fake Tweets and the sketchy music.  Very effective – and humorous in this setting.  Their reasons for stating that technology does not enhance student learning were, that it causes unnecessary distractions, there is a lack of pedagogical understanding, and it creates an overload of screen time.

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My Takeaways

As I mentioned earlier, both groups did a great job.  If I had to choose an official winner of the debate, it would be Trevor and Matt on the disagree side.  I feel that their points were stronger and presented in a more affirmative manner.  I think Nancy and Amanda made a good case for using technology right now for remote learning, however they didn’t make a strong enough connection to general classroom learning.  This was also backed-up by our pre-vote and post-vote.  In the pre-vote, 89.3% of students in the class thought that technology enhances classroom learning.  In the post-vote this number dropped to 58.3%.  I thank both sides for prompting me to think of this topic from different perspectives.  I like how Nancy and Amanda spoke about using tech to foster student engagement by building interest and purpose.  Matt and Trevor shed some new insight into the distractability of tech and the commercialization elements involved.  Each side also shared their research with us.  There was a variety of articles, websites, and videos on each topic.  Noteworthy sources include George Couros’ “The Myths of Technology” series, and this article that examines negative side effects of technology in classrooms.

General Thoughts on this Topic

I admit that as an educator, I go back and forth on this topic.  I agree with points from both sides.  I teach kindergarten and specifically chose not to have a set of Chromebooks in our classroom.  There are a few reasons why I made this decision.  One reason, which also came up in the debate, is that many students use devices frequently outside of school and I wanted them to have some screen-free time.  Also, so much of a child’s development at kindergarten age is hands-on, experiential learning.  Children need to hold concrete things and actively participate in enriching experiences.  They need to hold pencils, read real books, paint, build things, etc.  We have a SMARTBoard, and as a class we watch music and dance videos, we watch animal information videos, play alphabet games, do directed drawing, and look things up that we’re wondering.  So it’s not as though we don’t use technology, however I try to balance what we do on the SMARTBoard as a class that has a direct link to our learning and those valuable hands-on experiential learning moments.  I always wondered about using tech for student engagement, and when students first start school they are in awe of the “giant T.V.” in our classroom, they are just as much, if not more engaged, with playing, creating, and building – especially if I’m there doing it with them.  I also find offering choice of activities is highly engaging.  This would align with the George Couros stance that technology does not always automatically ensure engagement, and that true engagement and purpose comes through empowering students.

P.S.

One idea that came up from the disagree side during the debate was that technology does not equal good pedagogy.  This reminded me of something discussed in another course (EDL 825 – Learning and Assessment Leadership).  We watched a video, “Our Journey to Awesome” and a quote from this stated, “adding technology to old pedagogy doesn’t make it better.”  Just something else to think about.

 

Together, Apart

Our school officially closed on March 20, 2020. We were very fortunate to have a mandated 10 day pause on educational duties in order to get some plans in place as we moved to remote learning. When we resumed, our Division further paused student learning, and allowed teachers to receive virtual training in the new online platforms we’d be using such as SeeSaw, Screencastify, and Google Meet. Then we had a few days to get things set up. Also during this time, we were to contact families by phone to see how they were doing and to find out what technology they were able to access from their home. I realized through this, that while the training and setting up the online tools was necessary for facilitating remote learning, connecting with our families was necessary for my heart and mind. Learning how to navigate new online resources, and sitting at the computer for long periods of time was not something that I was used to, and it was very hard for me. Talking with people who I’d formed connections with all year, was familiar and comforting. Even though I’ve adjusted to teaching from home, and all the sitting, and using the online programs that go along with it, I still prefer the times when I can connect with my students and their families. I run two Google Meet sessions each week and receive lots of videos and pictures through SeeSaw and email. These moments have brought me tears of joy, smiles, and helped me feel that we are all still connected, even though we have to stay apart.

About Me

This blog has been created for a graduate course that I’m currently enrolled in at the University of Regina. The course is called Contemporary Issues in Educational Technology EC&I 830. It is instructed by Alec Couros. This is also the final course of my Master’s Degree!

I am a kindergarten teacher with the Chinook School Division in Swift Current, Saskatchewan. This is my 11th year of teaching.