Technology in the Classroom?

I want to first start by saying “WOW”.  It never seizes to amaze me at how many opinions are polar, regardless of the topic.

As with many things in life there are very few absolutes, and I believe that technology in the classroom falls into that category.  I will attempt to illustrate the discretionary nature of this question with the inclusion and introduction of two considerations. With that said, there are numerous considerations that could be used and these are not intended to be absolute.

First, will be the level of cognitive learning associated with the classroom in question i.e. Memorization, Understanding, and Application defined in the link below.

Memorization. This is rote learning. It entails learners encoding facts or information in the form of an association between a stimulus and a response, such as a name, date, event, place or symbol. For example, these are facts: Columbus discovered America in 1492, Pi = 3.1417

Understanding. This is meaningful learning. It entails learners relating a new idea to relevant prior knowledge, such as understanding what a revolutionary war is. The behaviors that indicate that this kind of learning has occurred include comparing and contrasting, making analogies, making inferences, elaborating, and analyzing (as to parts and/or kinds), among others.

Application. This is learning to generalize to new situations, or transfer learning. It entails learners identifying critical commonalities across situations, such as predicting the effects of price increases. The behavior that indicates that this kind of learning has occurred is successfully applying a generality (the critical commonalities) to a diversity of previously unencountered situations.


Second, will relate to the type of education being instructed or pursued in the classroom. This will be generalized in three subtopic areas:

-Public K-12 Education

-Private K-12 Education

-College / Post-secondary education


It can be argued that during the phase of memorization technology is not required or necessary for a student to learn and absorb the information/knowledge that is being delivered. However, the inverse can be equally argued by stating that technology facilitates certain types of rote memorization i.e. digital flash cards. During this phase students are more reliant on an instructor for the delivery and/or explanation of the material.

As the phases progress the reliance on instructor should begin to decrease. This is made evident through the  following quotes from the above source: “It entails learners relating a new idea to relevant prior knowledge”, and “successfully applying a generality (the critical commonalities) to a diversity of previously unencountered situations.” Students in the application and understanding phases must at some point must “disconnect” from the instructor in order to “relate and apply” what is being taught.

Here, as with memorization the last two types of learning can have arguments for and against technology. Each of these arguments would have nuanced characteristics that specifically related to the type and way the course material is/was presented. Therefore, as stated initially, it depends and is a discretionary call. However, the level of authority an instructor is given for the discretionary call should not be blanketed.

Before I begin this section I want to first state, if a students technology is negatively impacting the ability of other students to learn, corrective action should be taken. e.g. three students in front of you are streaming a soccer game. (that has ever happened to me 😉

In public K-12 schools students education and in some cases transportation and food are funded by taxation. The use of technology should be more heavily debated within this context. In many circumstances these students do not have the choice or option for private education and are reliant on the established policies to have a beneficial impact on there education. If students fail to perform to a satisfactory level, a burden is potentially placed on taxpayers to fund another year of schooling, transportation and food. Additionally, as stated by Mr. Glupton during class, “teachers are measured with metrics and the burden is placed on them to get the student where they need to be.” Therefore, if a student fails to perform at least three negative outcomes will persist: 1. The student falls behind 2. The taxpayers must foot the bill, again 3. The teacher is found at fault.

What teachers are not in these scenarios are parents or guardians. Ms. Welzenbach states in, Laptops And Phones In The Classroom: Yea, Nay Or A Third Way? “These devices are worse than distracting, she says. They can connect teens to cyberbullying, hate speech, sexting and other “unhealthy” experiences.” Many of these topics fall into the parental/guardian arena and should not be used as ammunition for a teachers discretionary decision on this topic.

Private K-12 schools have a different dynamic. The students in these settings have parents/guardians or other individuals that are paying for the education of the students. In this setting the benefactor should have some input if not complete authority. In this scenario there is no financial burden to the tax paying population for an error in judgment by the benefactor. Additionally, the teacher should be able to document the recommendation and the associated concerns given to the benefactor in order to provide insulation to external decisions being made outside of the teachers control.

A similar argument can and should be made for institutions at the college or post secondary level.  The students are now placed in either a student/benefactor or a student/beneficiary position. In either case the student should have complete discretionary control over how they see fit to be educated. (Again, as long as it doesn’t interfere with others abilities to learn) If they decide to not pay attention, and shop online, text/email a friend it is their prerogative.

In most cases these students will have to compete in the open market to earn a living. Their traits, qualities and education are just some of the components that will feed into this equation. There many arguments or examples that can be made which entertain the outlying examples of students who are atypical. There are those who are brilliant and never needed formal education to be successful (Steve Jobs, J.K Rowling, Steven Speilberg) Then there are those who just needed a little push by an educator to ignite a spark or a passion within them. But a majority will fall somewhere in middle, and their cumulative decisions and experiences will impact where their life takes them.

At some point the “umbilical cord” needs to be cut and students need to take control and responsibility for themselves. In my opinion, day one at a your first job is too late to figure out how to effectively navigate technology and the distractions it can bring. Regardless, at this level it is not an educators responsibility to police their students. Instead, the focus should be on doing the most good possible and ensuring that the environment does handicap those who want to learn.

In summation, there are many nuanced scenarios, circumstances and factors that affect this discussion. I do not believe that there is a right or a wrong answer which can be applicable in all settings. The intent was to highlighted two possible factors that impact this decision, with the hope to illustrate the sheer dynamics.


2 Replies to “Technology in the Classroom?”

  1. Hi Chris,

    I appreciate the way that you framed this post with definitions and presenting the structure of your argument (i.e.: public/private K-12 and higher education). I think you are asking some important questions about who shoulders the burden when students aren’t successful. It is probably impossible to make a blanket statement that covers all cases, but I’m sure that it’s always some combination of individual personalities, home-life and institution (all three for both student and teacher.) Remembering Wesch’s message, if we take the time to get to know our students, we can come to understand them on their terms and are then better equipped to teach them. If a student is having problems in class, more than likely, it’s not a problem with the class, it’s a problem in that student’s life that is manifesting through distraction in the classroom. I have found that once I have reached a student on that individual level, that respect for their peers, the course and the teaching team improves significantly. (It doesn’t always fix the abuse of technology all of the time, but it does improve the quality of the learning environment for everyone most of the time.)

  2. Hi Sara,

    Thank you for your perspective. I absolutely agree that placing individual attention to a student is beneficial. In those settings it places a great amount of responsibility on an instructor to properly navigate each students individual needs, an I applaud teachers for their ability to do that.

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