This week marked the opening night to The Great EdTech Debate series in #EDTC 400! Our first debate topic focused on whether or not technology enhances learning. When I initially read this topic, I immediately thought to myself that this wasn’t much of a debate because it’s pretty obvious that technology does enhance learning. The pre-vote that was conducted at the beginning of class supported this belief of mine, with nearly the entire class voting that technology does enhance learning. I sat down and listened to the opening debate supporting how technology enhances learning, agreeing with the points being made just as I had suspected. It then came time for the argument to be made against technology’s enhancement of learning. I was expecting to hear a short statement with very few sources to support the claims being made, however this was not the case at all! I was suddenly hit with a series of statements and facts that caused me to think more critically about the debate statement and my beliefs in general. While I entered the debate thinking that one side had already won, I left the debate with a somewhat different perspective. I will now take the time to discuss some of the major points made throughout the debate, as well as additional information that I discovered through the provided readings and sources of my own.
Technology Can Enhance Learning
I would first like to point out that I am personally not very experienced in the realm of technology. I’ve got the basics mastered, such as how to send a text message, and I can accomplish quite a bit with proper instruction, but I would never label myself as a “tech savy” individual. With this being said, there are so many aspects about technology that continue to amaze me each and every day and I have seen some amazing ways in which technology has opened up new opportunities for learning and education, many of which were mentioned in this debate .
Technology is undeniably a critical component to 21st century learning, and as Ashlee mentioned in her argument supporting technology’s enhancement of learning, provides students with access, resources, and allows for global collaboration. Much of what was discussed in the debate reminded me of the “4 C’s” of 21st century learning; critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, and communication.
All 4 of these skills are essential for students to develop and are interrelated in ways that are often unrecognized. Technology can play a significant role in fostering the development of these critical skills in many ways, as it allows for students to connect, therefore enhancing communication, which leads to collaboration, critical thinking, and of course, creativity.
George Couros’s article “As Technology Becomes Easier to Use, Our Depth of Learning Needs to Continue to Increase”, provides several interesting ideas surrounding the ways in which technology has changed over the years and how it has enhanced learning. Couros identifies how technology has not only become easier to use, but children of this generation are better at using it as well. Couros attributes this to increased accessibility, whether it be in the classroom or in students’ daily lives. He goes on to state that technology has allowed for us to do many things that we could not do without it, something I agree with 100%. If I were to sit down and make a list of all the things that I do on a daily basis that require technology or have been made easier due to technology, my list would be never-ending.
When exploring how technology has influenced my own education, I can identify several ways in which it has made my life a lot easier. Take the following examples into consideration; I can now search up answers to my questions within second, finding nearly anything I need to know through the internet. With the use of technology, I can also type my notes 100x faster than if I were having to write them out, therefore allowing for me to keep up in class and stay organized. These are just a few of the ways that I feel technology has enhanced my learning and there are so many other benefits that I had not recognized before. Courts and Tucker provide insight into some of the many other ways technology enhances learning in the classroom in their article “Using Technology to Create a Dynamic Classroom Experience”. This article addresses another positive benefit of technology in the classroom to enhance learning that was mentioned in this week’s debate, and that is the integration of multimedia tools to enhance learning, such as audio, video, and blogging. I think it’s important to recognize that students are all unique and learn in very different ways, therefore by implementing multimedia tools in the classrooms, teachers can ensure that they are meeting the needs of all students and their multiple ways of learning. To learn about more ways that technology is enhancing student’s learning, check out this link.
technology can also hinder learning
Considering how technology has become such a prominent aspect of human life, and the fact that I am enrolled in an educational technology class to learn about how to integrate technology into the classroom and use it appropriately, I caught myself assuming that the use of technology in the classroom always enhances learning. But, after hearing from the other side of the debate and listening to the discussion had, I can no longer say with certainty that I still feel this way. Raeann, who led this opposing side of the debate, opened my eyes to the many ways in which technology may not be enhancing our learning, but rather hindering it.
Some of the main arguments made in this week’s debate were in regards to how technology acts as a form of distraction for students and actually raises more issues for the teacher than it solves. In Julia Klaus’s article, “Negative Effects of Using Technology in Today’s Classroom”, she identifies how technology is often overused in the classroom and students can become so engrossed in the technology they are using that they become distracted from the intended purpose of the technology, which is supposed to be to enhance learning.
Another interesting perspective on the negative aspects of implementing technology into the classroom to enhance learning is provided by Matthew Lynch in his article “The Dark Side of Educational Technology”. Lynch addresses how while many people believe that technology makes the teacher’s job easier, in reality, it does the exact opposite. With the implementation of technology, teachers now have to worry about the increased opportunity for cheating, plagiarism, and academic dishonesty. I know from my own personal experiences in high school that many students find it hard to resist cheating when they are surrounded by technology, often times not registering that they are doing anything wrong. This places even more responsibility on the teacher’s shoulders and forces them to allocate a portion of their teaching time to ensure students are using technology appropriately. While students may feel that school takes up the largest portion of their lives, the time that teachers have to actually teach is quite limited and therefore it is essential that they be able to make the most out of the time they are given. This is something that technology is threatening in today’s classrooms and raises the question as to whether or not technology is enhancing or delaying learning.
One final point I would like to address in regards to the drawbacks of implementing technology into the classroom to promote the enhancement of learning is the fact that not all students have equal access to said technology. In “Technology, But Not for All”, Liz Riggs identifies how while technology may be a great addition to the classroom, we also must consider the gap between those who can and cannot afford or access this technology. More specifically, Riggs mentions that while technology often aims to level the academic playing field, it often has the opposite affect by increasing the achievement gap between the rich and poor. Sure there are ways to attempt to work around this by applying for funding and exploring program opportunities, but that does not change how students access technology in all areas of their lives and therefore does not solve the overriding problem. The following video provides a look into the importance of bridging this digital divide:
So whats the verdict?
The time has come for me to choose a side to this debate and I have made my decision (drumroll please..). While I entered this debate firmly believing that technology enhances learning, I have been swayed to believe that this is not always true. With this being said, I cannot confidently say that I am on one side or the other of this debate, but I reside somewhere in the middle.
What I can say with certainty is that I do believe that technology has the power to enhance learning, as I have seen it done in many instances before (as listed above). However, I also think that technology can be a dangerous and detrimental to learning if not implemented properly. Some teachers are simply unaware of how to implement technology into the classroom and there are several ways to avoid this, such as following models such as TPAK and SAMR, both of which I discussed in my last post. While I think it is understandable that many teacher, like myself, are not tech savy, I also do not think that this is an excuse not to integrate technology into the classroom. As the educators of the future generations, it’s important that we grow with technology and do everything we can to support students to develop the skills they will need in the future through technology, while also recognizing that technology is not always the answer to enhanced learning.
So, in summary, CAN technology enhance learning? Of course!
DOES technology enhance learning? That depends on how it’s implemented!
That’s all for this post! I would love to hear from the readers on their thought about this debate topic! Thanks for reading!