To have technology or to not have technology, that is the question.

Engaging the imaginations of digital learners has been an interesting endeavor for me to learn and think about this week. I have gone back and forth numerous times about where I stand on this concept of digital learning. On one hand, I think it creates an avenue of being able to be creative in how you facilitate your class and break down barriers of access for students. On the other hand, as someone that has sat in a classroom before, it’s not uncommon to see your fellow students “abusing” technology, aka watching the person in front of you watch episodes of Grey’s Anatomy.

Personally, I know that I have a bias sometimes regarding incorporating technology into my practices. I know I am very susceptible to being distracted by my phone or laptop and I can impose that bias on others. In my graduate assistantship role, I supervise 13 student staff members and during my weekly staff meetings, I have them put away any laptops or cellphones if they are not involved directly in an activity we are doing. I just feel like the second cell phones are out, it opens up for distractions.

Similarly, to what the Anya Kamenetz article talks about how that one teacher would walk into a room and just see all the students on their phones and not engaging with each other, I have seen this as well. If you do not have phones allowed, it can facilitate conversation between individuals faster I feel than if they did have them out. I feel that we can learn so much from others when we are just in community and engaging with each other.

On the other side of if technology should be in the classroom, I see many valid points and reasons it can be effective and should be implemented. The Anya Kamenetz article talks about how if you make a total ban of technology, if a student has a learning disability, it can unintentionally “out” them if they are using technology. As someone that does have a sibling who has a severe learning disability, I know how important learning assistive devices can be in the classroom. As well as how it can feel to not feel like you have agency in your choice of disclosing to others if you do in fact have a learning disability. It is personal information, and you should  feel obligated to inform everyone you are in a class with unless you want to.

As well as the article talks about how people in industry believe that technology can be the way of the future for the classroom. They made an interesting point along the lines of if they are using it, why not figure out ways to effectively incorporate it into the classroom. I feel that using technology should be intentional and well thought out so that you do not just spend every class trying to get the technology to work or explaining how to use the technology every time. I believe that as time goes on, we are going to keep moving towards being a technological society so how can we use technology effectively in the classroom? I would be interested to see studies that look at various online methods to see what has the best results. I feel that I need to do more research on this.

I thought it was interesting to note in the article that with the technology boom, that they reference apps that can block technology for students while they are trying to do work. I think this shows the pull technology can have on students while they are trying to be productive. I know in my undergrad, my roommate used a website that would block her from social media sites for however long she set it so that she would not get distracted by the internet while she was doing her schoolwork—how ironic that technology was both the cause of the problem and the solution to the problem.

How do you feel about technology in the classroom? Have you ever had it implanted really well in a class you’ve taken or do you feel the impact is mostly negative? I am interested in learning others perspectives on this matter.

8 Replies to “To have technology or to not have technology, that is the question.”

  1. Throughout my teaching, my technology policy has been changed throughout the semesters from it being strict, to now it being more fluid. My first course I had a no phone/computer policy. I made students print large amount of PDF’s whenever a reading is being used. My first impulse to not have computers is because it’s a small class size (20 max) where it’d be easy to distract others, but it’s also a class where students should be more engaged with one another than their laptops/phones. But as time progressed, I realized that maybe not all my students can afford paying for printer ink or they forgot to bring their pdf’s, which was excluding some students to participate.

    If I know a class will be more discussion based that doesn’t need computer usage, I wills still ask my students to not be on their computers. But if a student needs one to be able to participate in the classroom, then I’m more than happy to have electronics be used in the classroom. I want students to have the tools to feel included and to be able to learn.

  2. I liked your blog post as you brought up the ‘cons’ of technologies in addition to the benefits. Also, your last example of how ‘technology’ can be a solution to a problem caused by ‘technology’ was interesting and I think it could be a solution as well! Many of us have a tendency to check our cell phone or social media at the class more or less! Based on my observations, using technology was really useful in the class I’ve taken. Although students can get sometimes distracted once in a while, the positive impact outweighed the negative one: Getting engaged in learning through hands-on experience and making trial and errors, which I found very efficient in the process of learning.

  3. Your thoughts are definately resonating with this TA ! Especially :
    “I feel that using technology should be intentional and well thought out so that you do not just spend every class trying to get the technology to work or explaining how to use the technology every time. ”
    I think you summarize it well. The use of technological tools has to be planned and purposeful, otherwise it would just turn to be another distraction.

  4. A very thoughtful and well-written post! I have some of the same internal debates about the role / presence of technology in the classroom. Last semester was my first time teaching and I was teaching upperclassmen who honestly were not much younger than me. Initially, I feel like I was too strict with the cell phones and laptops rule, saying I would enforce the lead professor’s rule of not allowing them in class. However, as the semester went on, there were many things, such as in-class group work and peer reviews that required the use of laptops. So by the middle of the semester I adjusted to just saying, would you all close your laptops for the next 10-15 minutes while I give a brief lecture, that seemed to work better; but as you mention even this practice could be exclusionary and damaging to some students.

    1. Hi SPMurray, thank you so much for your comment. It is such a hard line to enforce as you said considering we do ask students to use technology sometimes. As well as I agree with your point that by using it sparingly, we can be exclusionary to some of our students. I know that this is for sure something I want to dive in more with and figure out how to implement technology effectively into my practice.

  5. One case when technology was used really well in a class I was in was using iclickers to examine comprehension as we were covering a topic. My professor would stop after covering every topic and would ask multiple questions or have us work through problems to make sure that the lesson actually sunk in. If the vast majority of the class didn’t do well, he paused and went back over the material again.

    1. Hi Cherice, thank you so much for your comment. As you can see, I am always going back and forth about technology. I am so glad to hear about your experience with it working well. I love the fact that the professor could use the clickers to gage where everyone was actually at. I find that it can be nerve wracking to be the first person to say you don’t understand and feel like you are keeping the class behind. By using this technology, it enables the students to check in continuously and what I am guessing anonymously therefore, helping break that barrier to asking for the professor to go over it again. I think this would be great to have in more classrooms!

  6. A nicely presented post! For the longest time, I have held a bias against using gadgets in the classroom. In my case, the bias wasn’t so much to do with the distraction that these gadgets would potentially bring, but it was to do with my being stuck in experiences from the formative days of my education when access to such was pretty much non-existent, at least, where I come from 🙂 Overtime, as I have become more and more exposed to these gadgets, I have tended to become more receptive of their use in the classrooms.

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