You have died of dysentery…

This week we debated whether or not technology was beneficial in the classroom. It was an interesting debate as I think we are at a point where most people believe that technology is integral in a classroom setting. In fact, it seems like we would be going backward if we were to move away from technology. However, the debate wasn’t as clear cut as many of us probably thought it would be. Obviously as students in a master’s level course focused on contemporary issues in Ed Tech you would think that we might be preaching to the choir.

Preach John Stamos GIF by Fuller House - Find & Share on GIPHY

However, I think the goal of our debate, in the end, was really presenting a couple of ideas. First off when debating on the “for” side it was clear that technology is going to be beneficial as we all know it is not going anywhere and recognize that technology is integral in shifting the view of the world as really a global community. However I think this debate brings up a couple of interesting concepts that maybe we as a society didn’t talk enough about during the techno boom of the last couple of decades.

I think it is safe to say that many of us in this course remember a time when technology as we understand it today was not so ubiquitous in the classroom. We might in fact remember when the internet was sold on a tv commercial or a vhs cassette that came with your computer to and when schools had a single computer lab where you either sold lemonade or got dysentery

This might be at the core of our debate- the fact that we have lived in a world without digital technology and lived in a world where technology has boomed and continues to transform our world as we know it almost daily. So we might be a group that is nostalgic for the “good old days” and amazed by the new transformations we see around us. In the end we really both love and hate technology!

Why we love technology in the classroom:

As teachers, I think it is fair to say that we love technology in the classroom because of the way that it helps us elevate teaching and learning experiences in the classroom. We are constantly in awe of the fact that we can do amazing things like take students virtually on a field trip to zoos and places around the world or by the other myriad of ways that technology allows us to present learning opportunities, assess students understanding and create an engaging classroom. We know that educational technology like Google Classroom, SeeSaw, Edsby can help us organize and deliver content, information and track student progress in ways we could never have before. Having grown up with word processors and film projectors it is easy for us to be amazed at the seemingly limitless potential of what technology can do for students and teachers. It is engaging and exciting to envision the multitude of ways that we can use the latest and greatest technology to do all sorts of amazing things. It is exactly the way that technology allows us to push our lessons that makes it so enticing. I can take an old lesson and make it a little more exciting or engaging or accessible by integrating technology into my lesson plans. This is really as simple as things like YouTube videos and TedTalks and the never ending supply of resources that exist on the internet.

Technology also allows for teachers to collaborate, share and learn from each other in ways that were not possible before. Websites dedicated to subject area lesson plans, with blogs and forums and all sorts of great discussions are complimented by sites like teachers pay teachers where you can share your lessons or borrow from others (and maybe make a couple bucks) create a community of educators that goes beyond your building, beyond your division- they can become a global community of collaborators. Add in social media sites like Facebook groups and twitter hashtags and you can see the landscape of the global teaching community changing because of these digital tools.

Also technology is not a new concept in the classroom… depending on how you want to define technology. Whether its personal calculators or scantrons. Technology has been interwoven into the teaching profession for decades. So deciding how and what technology integrates its way into the classroom is not a new phenomenon. So what makes “modern technology” different, well at this point not a lot… I’m sure that there has been a constant flux of teachers feeling overwhelmed by new ways to do report cards or the new system for communication with families but I think you’d be hard pressed to find a teacher who wants to go back to faxes and handwritten report cards. Now, in fact, many of these companies are creating with Education in mind. Companies like Google and Microsoft or smaller firms like Quizziz and Kahoot! are designing programs for the classroom. Of course there is some technology that is not made for Education but that teachers have found ways to make work in the classroom.

So with technology designed to make life better and teaching easier how can we go wrong?

Just wait I’ll show you…

Why We Hate Technology in The Classroom:

So at first glance it seems like there should be no reason not to embrace technology in the classroom. In fact, the majority of our class agreed at the beginning of the debate that technology is beneficial in the classroom. So what swayed their vote to nearly 50/50 by the end of a one hour debate? Clearly it was Janeen and Catrina’s superior debating skills. That… or … it was the fact that the more you actually talk about technology in the classroom the more you realize it is imperfect and can cause issues and difficulties.

So what is one of the major reasons we hate technology when it comes to the classroom? Well, It’s also one of the reasons we can sometimes love it. It’s the technology overload. When schools teachers and students are constantly bombarded with the need to be on the cutting edge of #EdTech it can feel overwhelming. When PowerSchool is replaced by Edsby and when Google Classroom turns into Microsoft Teams. When Hangouts become Zooms it can feel overwhelming. Learn a new system, add another step. This feeling of tech burnout is at the heart of a lot of complaints about tech in the classroom. Often teachers are already feeling overworked add to that a new way to a thing you thought you had mastered and its not long before push back starts. Maybe Edsby is great. Maybe Google Classroom and Zoom are the only reasons anyone learned anything during COVID-19— or maybe not. The number of times we pivoted (thanks to technology) made a lot of teachers ready to throw in the towel.

Technological distractions. Sure technology is great for all sorts of reasons but the moment I give my class a second to look up something on their phone or ask them to record a conversation and turn it in for assessment half the class is Snap Chatting and Tik Toking or doing something else that is hip and new that just came about during the time I started writing this blog. Dealing with technological distractions should almost be a class in any undergraduate Education program. So how do we combat this. Do we have to ban tech in the classroom? Do we throw cell phones out the window or nail them to the chalk board? (Yeah, I said chalk board!!) Neither of those are the answers (probably) but as a busy teacher already fighting for students attention I don’t think I want to entice students into distraction when its already right there.

Technology makes it easy for teachers to be lazy and makes for bad lessons. Why teach a thing when somebody else has already made a kick ass YouTube video that describes it better then me? Look I like to think I’m clever and witty and a pretty good teacher but if I’m being honest there is no way that I can summarize determinism vs free will when teaching Macbeth as quickly and be as entertaining as Crash Course. So I will just continue to use videos made by people who are smarter than be do the hard work. So my classroom is now really just a collection of expertly curated internet content. Ok- so we also know from years of educational research that only showing videos in your classroom is just bad pedagogy but that doesn’t stop some educators from doing just that. Tech makes being lazy easier as at some level it is doing the work for you.

So Clearly we are now at a point where there are strong debates for both sides…

Well- now what?!?

I think really I still agree that technology enhances learning, because not only can it do amazing things and support engaging learning opportunities but we haven’t even touched on how it makes the learning environment more inclusive and supportive. Many papers and discussions around technology in Education have helped educators recognize the inherent connection between Universal Design for Learning and Educational Technology. If we shift our focus from average to above average learners and look at what technology has done for students who have cognitive of physical disabilities it is hard to deny the impact and benefits of technology in the classroom. Apps that help read for students who previously were diagnosed with LD’s in comprehension and apps that enable non-verbal students to communicate through eye-tracking technology are allowing brilliant young minds to not only learn and grow but to work towards a fully inclusive classroom that understands that learning is for all and not just for some. Teachers who spend time learning about and working with this technology are able to design lessons that are accessible and engaging for all students. Technology supports diversified learning that allows for students to demonstrate their understanding in a variety of ways thanks to assistive tech.

So where do we go as educators to work with tech in our classroom in ways that make sense and are effective. Well, its about educating ourselves and continuing to grow and develop our practice. To be reflexive in our planning and thinking. Its about understanding how we use technology in our space and using tools like the SAMR model to think about what the technology is actually doing in the lesson. It is also about understanding how we create lessons that fit in that golden centre of the TPACK framework where as educators we can use our technological, pedagogical and content knowledge to create lessons that integrate technology in a successful way that goes beyond tech for tech sake.

In the end though… the debate rages on. Tech is in the classroom and whether it enhances or detracts from learning will certainly have strong voice from either side until then however at least we know the files are in the computer…

2 thoughts on “You have died of dysentery…

  1. Hey Will,
    Great post. I feel you touched on many of the topics we covered during the debate. I’m a lover of tech and hater at the same time. When tech is used correctly it does have so many positive impacts for our students like you mentioned. It has had such a big impact for our students with higher needs in the classroom and has allowed them different avenues to complete their assignments. I agree, tech can allow teachers shortcuts in their planning or worse, allowing them to show videos after videos, but I feel like I had a few teachers like that who would roll out the TV and VCR probably more than they should of. Here’s a handout, and watch this episode of Degrassi in Health Class. It is really there to enhance learning, but teachers need to know how to incorporate it correctly. Thanks for sharing the TPACK model. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen it before, but it was a good perspective on tech in the classroom. You also owe me 25 minutes, as I had to spend a little time making my way up the Oregon Trail.


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