Tech in Class

Hmmm, I have ignored this blog for  awhile …

This is an excerpt from an article on the Slate site.

The balanced-education formulation advanced by Patricia Greenfield argues just the opposite: Precisely because young people spend so much time with digital media outside of school, schools must offer them a very different kind of education in order to even the cognitive scales. In Greenfield’s view, this means reading copious amounts of old-fashioned literature—just what young people are not doing (according to research) on their own time. I would add that schools could also strive to provide more of the face-to-face contact, the in-person social interaction, that has been largely displaced by young people’s use of Facebook, Twitter, and texting in their off-hours.

While I agree that we need balance (whatever that means for each individual), there is a place for its use in schools. Technology allows new connections, new ways to find, think critically, create, and communicate. We need hands on activities, we need social contact, we need physical activity, we need reading, etc. I think however, that many who argue that tech should be out of schools are missing the ways it is used in innovative classrooms all over – it is not about staring at a screen all day, it is used as needed for learning in many ways.

Is Technology Neutral?

George Veletsianos explores this statement in this post. This is another commonly held believe, akin to the statement that technology is just a tool. George makes some interesting points and supports the idea that technology is both more than a tool and is not neutral. He also brings these thoughts back to the use of educational technology. Here is an excerpt, but read the entire post here; (his references are also listed)

Technologies themselves are rarely neutral. How can that be, you ask, when the bullet point above stated the opposite? Technology is not created in a vacuum. When technology is created, it is built with the developers’ worldviews, values, beliefs, and assumptions embedded into the technology and revealed through the activities supported and encouraged when individuals use the technology.

Technology – a double edge sword

Given that technology is both creative and destructive, wouldn’t it be better to have a public discourse about it that accepted this uncomfortable truth? Obviously yes. So why doesn’t it happen? One answer, suggested many years ago by the great cultural critic Neil Postman is that we live in what he called a “technopoly”, that is to say a society in which technology is effectively deified.

“Because of its lengthy, intimate and inevitable relationship with culture,” Postman wrote, “technology does not invite a close examination of its own consequences. It is the kind of friend that asks for trust and obedience, which most people are inclined to give because its gifts are truly bountiful. But, of course, there is a dark side to this friend… it creates a culture without a moral foundation. It undermines certain mental processes and social relations that make human life worth living. Technology, in sum, is both friend and enemy.”

excerpt from: Technology is a double-edged sword | Technology | The Observer by J. Naughton (link above).

Why we need to be critical users of technology.

Using Technology to Challenge Students

I also believe that simply throwing technology into classrooms will change nothing. We need to challenge our students to use these tools to create, to connect, and to tinker. Do we believe that we are preparing students for the future simply because we’ve spent thousands on iPads or SMART Boards or whatever shiny gadget has garnered society’s attention for the moment? If so, then our educational technology is focused on the consumption of products and information at the expense of creativity, connection, and community.

In this excerpt from an article in the Fall issue of Education Canada (see link above to complete article!), respected Manitoba educator Clarence Fisher wonders whether we just trow new technology in classrooms to say we have it or if we use the technology to challenge kids to create, share and ‘tinker’. An important question to consider, often new interactive white boards, for one example, are put into classrooms without a clear plan for their use. Check out the entire article at the link above. Do you use your technology to challenge your students in the ways Clarence suggests?

(from: Building Cool Things | Canadian Education Association (CEA))

Turning off the gadgets?

Step away from the computer (or your friends)

That’s exactly why they have so much to learn from going without their gadgets, according to Steven Womack, a high-school English teacher in Franklin, Tenn. He challenges his students each year to go three days without technology. In the five years he’s given the assignment to his Grade 11 English class, barely 5 per cent have had the willpower to endure. Still, he persists.

I think there is something missing from this statement. Yes we can connect with people face to face, but so many times we don’t realize that we are not asking kids to go away from their devices, but we are asking them to move away from human connections. Just not connections in the way that we used to do it, but in the way they do it. We have to be careful with commentary like this as it says that technology just provides us technology, and nothing else.

 

George makes a good point in his comments about this excerpt. It is sometimes nice to turn it off – but what are we really doing without when we do?

(this is a first – a quote about a quaote!)