The Great Tech Debate #1: Technology: Does Tech help or hurt student learning?

My first thought after watching the first round of debates was how both showed the power of persuasive arguments.  Nancy and Amanda’s choice to share a personal angle, highlighting Amanda’s story of her torn Achilles, really shone a light on the potential that tech brings into not only our students lives, but teachers as well.  The way she took an obstacle of being home bound and rather than being limited by her injury and feeling disconnected from her passion of teaching she found an opportunity to solve her personal situation with via tech.  You could see the joy and love in Amanda’s prepared lessons, and the creativity and the connection that occurred through them.  Their highlight of the 4 C’s 4 C’s of 21st Century Skills(critical thinking, collaboration, communication, creativity +connection) being present through tech really highlighted that when tech is used by caring, compassionate, creative, pedagogically sound teachers the sky is the limit.  After hearing their arguments, I would add another C- curiosity!  Often we tell students to find their passion, but finding their “one true thing” can feel like a lot of pressure.  However, with the aid of technology students have access to information and learning that can pique curiosity.  Elizabeth Gilbert (a well-known author and speaker who devotes her life to creativity) shows how curiosity can fan a flame, whereas passion can be a flame killer.  She states, “I am a big advocate for the pursuit of curiosity. … Curiosity, I have found, is always within reach. Passion is a tower of flame, but curiosity is a tiny tap on the shoulder — a little whisper in the ear that says, “Hey, that’s kind of interesting” (elizabethgilbert.com). 

At the beginning of the debate, I was under the impression that Matt and Trevor would have their work cut out from them to counter the strong argument that Nancy and Amanda put forth.  Furthermore, being aware of their work and seeing some of their lessons in the Connected Educator database I was aware that they have strong pedagogical practices that utilizes technology to enhance learning in their classrooms.  Their persuasive argument took a humorous approach and that really resonated with me.  The way they modeled an “attack ad” of sorts was very timely considering all that is going on in our world with the Presidential Election occurring south of the border and our recent Federal Election here in Canada.  While watching their incredibly well constructed video it got me thinking of how their video could be used to teach students about the power of media.  As a society we are inundated with information on our social media feeds and it is CRITICAL we look at what we are reading and validate it.  Furthermore, we often follow or receive information that think like we do.  Eli Pariser put forth the theory of a filter bubble influencing how we see the world.  He states that a Filter Bubble is the intellectual isolation that can occur when websites make use of algorithms to selectively assume the information a user would want to see, and then give information to the user according to this assumption”. 

This got me thinking of not only how we perceive media, but also WHAT media is presented to us.  Therefore, it got me thinking that Matt and Trevor’s video would be really cool assignment to look at the power of media.  It would be really neat to look at the angle they are taking, how are they trying to persuade you to think like them, what type of marketing skills do they use, what did you think about the tweets from Amanda and Nancy in their document, can we substantiate that Amanda and Nancy wrote them????  I love how their presentation not only defended their stance, but could also be used as a segue into another conversation and potential lesson for students.

Matt and Trevor’s argument that technology adds to teacher intensification, that it is distracting for students, that even Silicon Valley executives do not want their children using tech at school was very interesting.  I agree with them that tech can be overwhelming at times.  I know I have left Technology sessions where so many tools were shared I did not know where to begin.  But, once I picked one or two tools that aided my pedagogy, I found that the ease of the tool actually made my Outcomes easier to achieve, assess, and I had a bigger picture of student understanding which influences student learning.  I could and would start a lesson with checking in with students learning via a quick Mentimeter or Quizizz and with a few clicks I knew what content I had to review, what they were curious about and suddenly my next lesson was empowered by their learning from the previous lesson. Technology allowed me to inquire into student understanding and learning efficiently and effectively and I hope positively impact student learning.   In regards to technology being distracting, well, how I do say this, of course it is!  I know if I am bored, it is easy to grab my phone and look at something I find more interesting.  I am also guilty of responding to a text while I am in a Staff Meeting or somewhere else where I should be listening (never this class of course 😉 ). So rather than seeing this as an obstacle, I think it’s a teachable moment where we can practice the skills of self-regulation, discussions about appropriate and inappropriate use of tech, the power of active listening and how that aids engagement and learning.  Simon Sinek had a great video that went viral a few years ago talking about how tech can limit those opportunities for human connection, but also the power it has in our life.  Trevor and Matt spoke about this, but if we do not teach those skills in our classroom how can we expect student ts to learn those skills to use in the workplace and in their personal lives? 

Finally, Matt and Trevor’s point about technology executives preferring that their children do not use technology at school is an interesting one.  Do they know something we do not? Or . . . are they able to give those lessons in a controlled environment with their expertise that supersede a teachers understanding of technology?  I draw this analogy, if Michael Jordan is my dad (old school reference, but the Last Dance made me think of him and 90’s basketball was the bees knees!) do you think he should teach me about a fall away jumper, or will the Physical Education teacher be a great coach for that skill??

With all that being said, Amanda and Nancy shared really interesting insights that I agreed with. But Matt and Trevor took an argument in a Technology class and showed great points of what all teachers need to consider. They shared the other side of the coin, a side we must consider to ensure sound pedagogy is at the basis of any tool that is used in class- technology related or not. At the end of the argument, I actually changed my vote from the beginning.  Due to Trevor and Matt’s points, I believe that technology can enhance learning AS LONG as there is sound pedagogy at the foundation of the lesson and thus ultimately sided with them.  What I found while listening to the two sides of the debate is that Amanda and Nancy showed the potential of tech enhancing learning, and Trevor and Matt’s points got me thinking that there must be a foundation of pedagogy prior to tools being used.  Overall, both sides made me consider how we, as potential future leaders, in our schools need to say tech has great power, but with great power comes great responsibility!  Therefore, before we use tech, let’s make sure we are aware of the benefits, challenges and be able to name the reason why we are using it!  It’s a balancing act that both sides show great opportunities, so the more we can understand both sides the more we can be conscious of how we use it in our classrooms, and how can empower students and staff to utilize good teaching practice regardless of the tools being used.  

7 thoughts on “The Great Tech Debate #1: Technology: Does Tech help or hurt student learning?

  1. Pingback: Summary of Learning | Jacquie Murrays Musings

  2. I LOVE how you included the word curiousity into the 4 Cs! Such a neat addition, and it offers a whole new way to look at things. I work with grade 1s, and they are ALWAYS curious about everything. They just want to know more. We actually did a whole unit on Koala Bears because of a read aloud I did, and they had so many questions it turned into a full unit. Whenever they finished their work, they would ask for iPad time to research Koala Bears, and it turned out to be one my facourite units I have ever taught. Their CURIOUSITY drove the entire thing. So I really appreciate that new addition to the 4 Cs.

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  3. Pingback: The Big Debate: Does Technology Enhance Learning?

  4. The word curiousity also came to my mind during the debate! As I mentioned in Michala’s blog, I collect quotes to share with my staff at our weekly check-ins. In light of the unknown we are facing right now and our newfound dependency on technology, I enjoy this quote by Alan Watts: “By replacing fear of the unknown with curiosity we open ourselves up to an infinite stream of possibility. We can let fear rule our lives or we can become childlike with curiosity, pushing our boundaries, leaping out of our comfort zones, and accepting what life puts before us.”

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  5. Great perspective! I love that you brought in The Last Dance! I am hooked on that show! And Michael Jordan definitely showed what work ethic does! Technology is a balancing act that needs to be meaningful and purposeful.

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