I am still trying to wrap my head around what happened on Tuesday during the first debate. The topic was “Technology in the classroom enhances learning!” I had no clue what to expect coming into this debate. It is a fence I straddle regularly and so I was anxious to hear what Nancy and Amanda would say in favour of this topic, while also hearing what Matt and Trevor had to say in opposition. I never could have imagined what came out of it. I found myself engaged and eager to hear what the next party might say. I found myself changing my own opinion constantly as the debate went on.
Coming into this debate the odds were heavily on the side of agreeing with the fact that technology enhances learning. Technology is a huge part of our everyday life, especially right now, so it is hard to argue that it isn’t helping with learning. Nancy and Amanda did a fantastic job of expressing those points and used a personal connection that benefits Amanda currently. They mentioned how technology is allowing us to still connect with our students and continue learning through zoom, google meet, microsoft teams, seesaw or whatever else we may be using. However, take Covid-19 out of the equation and that point may not have been as strong since it wouldn’t be our main form of teaching. On that point tho, technology has still allowed us to teach behind the walls of our classroom. Classes have communicated with people all around the world, they have researched or virtually visited places on the other side of the globe. One article they shared was “Technology can close achievement gaps, improve learning“. It “identifies three important components to successfully using technology with at-risk students: interactive learning, use of technology to explore and create rather than to “drill and kill,” and the right blend of teachers and technology”. I found this statement to be a strong one because I can personally relate. I have a handful of students that rely on a computer to complete work. Without this support they are unable to express their true understanding of the material, they become frustrated and disengage and they fall further behind their classmates. We have seen an improvement in their learning and classroom engagement since allowing them the use of a computer. I also think this brings up another point Nancy and Amanda made. They said a good teacher cannot be replaced by technology but rather make a good teacher better. Students are naturally engaged when they have access to a computer. At least it seems that way as they work away at their desk. If it is on-task work that is another question for later on! I agree that a good teacher can become better by the use of technology but that is only if they know how to use it. If they have been taught, have the experience to really demonstrate and utilize all the tools that are out there. This also made me wonder, does it make me a bad teacher if I am not using technology to its fullest potential? I have seen some amazing activities done by teachers and I think wow where did they come up with that idea. While I have also seen teachers that have used technology and it has totally crushed any momentum they have had with students learning. It is such a fine line, and I believe that is where, as educators, we can really use technology to benefit us…. if we know how to use it ourselves!
I am not sure if it was the suit and tie, the matching background or the fact that Matt and Trevor put together a strong argument against technology in the classroom but they sure swayed the polls in their favour by the end of the debate. Maybe it was all three!
The two points that came up that I want to focus on are ones that stood out to me. The first one being the distraction of technology in the classroom. This has been one I always questioned. My main work has been in primary classrooms so I never had to deal with teaching students with cell phones so I cannot speak first hand to this. I coached at a high school level and if I sent my players a text at recess time I would receive a response almost instantly. I knew they were answering texts in class and it made me question how focused they were to their teacher at that time. That was one message from me, I can only imagine how many more they received from friends. I know for myself, my phone is a distraction if I have it near me during staff meetings or classes. It blows my mind how often I find myself mindlessly scrolling through social media. Matt and Trevor shared an article titled, “Leave it in the Bag“. The main point of this article stated that students at West Point, “perform better academically when laptops and tablets are banned from the classroom”. I found this article very interesting because it was something I could relate to. As a student, I was easily distracted by others that brought their laptops to class. I found the screen would grab my attention even though I was not the one using it. Some students were taking notes or following along but more often than not I would see students playing games or cruising through pinterest or whatever else that was unrelated to class. I guess this is where the teachers role can affect how distracted students are by their technology. I think the closing mark in the article can speak to that… “Students at West Point are highly incentivized to earn high marks, professors are expected to interact with their students during every lesson and class sizes are small enough that it is difficult for students to be completely distracted by their computer without the professor noticing”.
The other point was the emphasis Trevor made on Amanda’s comment about the 4 C’s (Critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity). He talked about how it can be hard to be creative on a digital device because all our answers can be found on google and we no longer have to think for ourselves. I found he supported this argument and made a really good case for it. At first I wasn’t so sure but by the end he had me seeing his side. I guess this one might come down to how the teacher approaches the lesson and challenges the students to express themselves without just letting the computer do the work. Again, maybe that is where a good teacher really shines!
At the end of the debate I found myself leaning one way more than the other. I still think there are a lot strong arguments made on each side of the fence. I guess it might come down to using technology in moderation and making sure you are using it in an effect way. As a teacher, I know I have a lot to learn about how I can better incorporate technology in my own classroom to enhance student learning.