Posted in EDTC 400

Can Technology Enhance Learning?

This week our EDTC 400 class started the Great EdTech Debate Series. Each week, two of our classmates will go head to head, debating hot topics in the EdTech world. To start us off, Ashlee and Raeann started began our debates with the topic: Does technology enhance learning in the classroom? Ashlee took the stance that yes, technology can and does enhance learning in the classroom, Raeann, on the opposition, said that no, technology does not enhance learning in the classroom.

To start off the debate, the class began with a poll to see where the rest of our peers stood on this topic. The pre-debate poll came back with 100% of us agreeing that technology does enhance learning! This was a pretty overwhelming response to the first debate so I was extremely excited to see the post-debate poll!

Pre-Debate Class Poll

Once we had finished hearing from both the agree and disagree side and had our class discussion of the topic, we were able to move into the post-debate poll. The results came back quite surprising and it seems that Raeann swayed a lot of people. Both of the debaters brought up such great points that I am not surprised that this was the result!

Post-Debate Class Poll

Agree – Ashlee’s Debate Points

As I mentioned above, Ashlee was tasked with representing the “Agree” side of this debate. Her three main points were as follows:

  1. Global Collaboration – Providing students access to technology in the classroom can allow them to achieve great collaborative feats. Now more than ever, students have access to knowledgable individuals from all across the globe and have the resources to connect and learn from them. Ashlee shared with us the CNA Speaking Exchange project in which students from Brasil, used technology to connect with seniors in America. The participants were able to teach each other about their native tongues and make connections across borders!
  2. Technology as a Resource – Next, Ashlee argued that technology is an irreplaceable resource in any educational space. Ashlee backed up her statement with Sarah Kessler’s article “8 Ways Technology Is Improving Education”. In the article, Kessler states that access to technology in the classroom provides students and teachers with better simulations and models, global learning, virtual manipulatives, probes and sensors, more efficient assessment tools, storytelling, multimedia, and e-books, and finally, epistemic games. All of these tools provide students with more diverse learning experiences that can help them pay better attention, get interested quicker, and integrate knowledge in a more meaningful way. Furthermore, these resources are also a great way for educators to spice up their teaching style!
  3. Multimedia Representations – Lastly, Ashlee talked about how multimedia representations can provide students with even more ways to learn and show their learning. Similar to how we use many different types of multimedia representations to share our learning in this class, students can use these tools in any subject to create more dynamic learning experiences.

Disagree – Raeann’s Debate Points

Now, it was time for Raeann to argue the disagree side of the debate and she sure had her work cut out for her! That being said, Raeann came up with some really compelling points:

  1. Technology is Distracting – Raeann started off her debate with the idea that technology in the classroom is distracting students. From the flashy screens and noisy ringtones, students attention is constantly being turned away from their learning and into their phones, tablets, or other devices. Even more, teachers may end up with great amounts of “Lost Learning Time” due to technical difficulties and redirecting distracted pupils.
  2. Academic Dishonesty – Second, Raeann brought up the very real possibility that students could use their technology in class to cheat or commit plagiarism. This is not something new to schooling, that being said, bringing technology into the equation is. The average age when a student gets a smartphone is ever decreasing and the instances of them being used in the classroom to cheat will only go up. Mathew Lynch brings up a good point when he points out all the ways students could use their phones to cheat: “ – Storing notes on a cell phone. – Purchasing prewritten papers online, or ordering them to be customized. – Writing a paper that is the same as something else found online, but changed enough to look original. – Students text messaging each other answers. – Using a smartphone camera to take a picture of a test or exam. – Using voice recorders or virtual assistance programs to record or ask for answers.
  3. Not Enough Consideration – Lastly, Raeann closed her statements with the idea that there is not enough consideration put into the actual implementation of technology in classrooms. This is backed up in one of her required readings, Mathew Lynch’s “The Dark Side of Educational Technology” which states that when schools receive devices like iPad’s, they do not receive all of the other valuable pieces that go along with it like teacher training, for example.

Conclusion

My thoughts on this topic really did change throughout the course of this debate. I went into it fully believing that technology does enhance learning. However, a more nuanced approach to this topic is needed. Technology in the classroom can be an effective way to enhance learning if it is implemented in a good way. Slapping iPad’s in your student’s hands and expecting them to enhance their own learning is slightly ludicrous. That being said, I do feel that this debate lost sight of its original focus. I feel that a debate on the actual topic of technology, being inclusive to many types of technology, not just phones and tablets, would have made for an even more interesting discussion. Still, after the debate, I do recognize that there are downfalls to implementing technology in the classroom. Not only do the above ideas stand true, but technology in almost all forms is quite expensive and adding it into the classroom without proper training for teachers is bound to be a disaster. Someone mentioned Smart Boards in our debate and how had teachers been taught to use them effectively, they wouldn’t be used as virtual whiteboards. Thus, I believe that the problem here is not the technology itself, but it’s implementation and the support teachers receive in using it in the classroom!

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Studying to gain a Bachelor of Education at the University of Regina

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