The Great EdTech Debate – Round One! Does Technology in the Classroom Enhance Learning?

Round one of The Great EdTech Debate is now complete! Congratulations to both groups for a remarkable job on defending your arguments of why technology does or does not enhance learning in the classroom. Admittedly, for both the pre-vote and the post-vote I voted on the disagree side simply because I feel that a lot of educators struggle with finding their purpose on how to use technology in their classroom; to enhance their students learning. Perhaps this is because there is a lack of professional development or training for educators on this topic, but I do firmly believe that pedagogy strongly lacks in this area.

Often, I see YouTube videos put up on the screen for students to watch during snack or lunch time. Wouldn’t it be much more beneficial for students to orally communicate with one another during this time instead? This helps to enhance their language development skills and social skills, which is especially crucial at the primary level, but rather students are forced to sit quietly and stare at a screen while they eat.

I also frequently observe the students that display challenging behaviors in the classroom, then placed in front of a tablet screen to play games on an iPad. Is the student behavior problem solved? I would think not. Again, I state, that perhaps there is also a lack of professional training in the area of classroom management; a strong correlation between the two, purposeful use of technology and effective classroom management.

Nonetheless, there were several strong arguments and points made between the two debate groups on this important topic, many of which resonated with me both personally and professionally.

Woman in pink crew neck t shirt holding tablet computer
Photo by Julia M Cameron on Pexels

Technology in the classroom enhances learning. *Agree*

-Home and School Connection: Technology used between both home and school allows for better home and school connections through the use of programs such as Seesaw or Edsby. Recently this year, the Regina Public School Division that I teach for transferred over to using the new program of Edsby. One of its main features allows for both educators and students to post photo/video content of student learning in the classroom to share at home. Families at home are then notified when a posting has been shared where they can like, comment, or save the content to their own device.

Efficiency: Technology makes teacher planning and prep much faster and easier. This includes the use of photocopiers, access to Wi-Fi and the technology that we as educators are provided with, within our school divisions, such as personal laptops, iPads and mounted data projectors. Also, being a primary school educator, Teachers Pay Teachers is one of my favorite quick and easy online resources to access!

Assistive Technology: Technology assists and supports students with their learning that have special needs. Inclusion is crucial in our classrooms and technology provides the opportunity to include all student abilities. Teaching Kindergarten over the years, I have had several students that are non-verbal in my classroom. To support them with their communication and learning, we use the program Proloquo2Go on an iPad, which essentially provides a voice for the student and allows them to still take part in all aspects of learning in the classroom.

Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL): TEL includes the advancement of digital educational software, more specifically, education apps. In my Kindergarten classroom, I have a range of different learning centers that the student’s access during play time. One of the centers is an iPad center where the students use the Starfall learning app which focuses on activities of both literacy and numeracy. This is by far one of the student’s favorite centers as it is hands-on, engaging, motivating and most of all fun!

Technology in the classroom enhances learning. *Disagree*

Distractions: Technology can be a distraction for students, and many can no longer sit and focus on learning in the classroom for long periods of time. Personally, I am finding that more students are struggling with focus and body regulation when sitting and listening to the teacher. I am now often requesting from our school Learning Resource Teacher for more supportive materials for my Kindergarten students such as rocking chairs, weighted lap pads and hand fidgets. I do believe that the use of too much technology for students has been the result of the focus and body regulation difficulties that we are now seeing in the classroom.

Dependability: Technology is not always dependable, often devices break down or the internet is not working when you are trying to carry out a lesson in your teaching. Recently this year, our school has been experiencing a lot of Wi-Fi issues, so I often have had to hotspot off of my personal cellphone to access the internet on my laptop to still complete my planning, preparation and teaching.

Connections: There is no longer real, authentic, and meaningful connections being established face-to-face for students, rather the majority of “connection” is carried out through technology and a screen. From more of a personal perspective, I often find it so disheartening when I see people sitting at a table together at a restaurant and no one is talking, they are all glued to their phones. Is this the future of connections? If so, I find that to be very concerning.

Mental Health Concerns: The use of technology has led to severe mental health issues like depression, anxiety and sadly, even suicide. Forms of this can be through cyberbullying and also one’s perception of themselves through social media. Student mental health is rapidly declining, and a large part of that is due to the negative effects of technology. Yet, our schools lack the funding to provide the essential mental health supports that are needed in the classroom to help our students with this, such as school counsellors and professional training for educators.

Child showing a message written in a notebook
Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels

Final Thoughts

Even though I did vote on the disagree side for this debate topic, I realize that I could not effectively teach today without the use of technology; yes, technology enhances student learning in the classroom. Therefore, the challenge for us as educators and the use of technology going forward is then finding our purpose, developing our pedagogy, perfecting our practice, and ultimately finding that balance.

Thanks for reading and stopping by!

10 Replies to “The Great EdTech Debate – Round One! Does Technology in the Classroom Enhance Learning?”

  1. Gunpreesh . says: Reply

    You have beautifully presented thoughts in your blog post. I appreciate the way you have raised pointers for agreeing and disagreeing with sides. I totally agree with your concern about showing Youtube videos during break time and I also believe the same as we sometimes take technology for granted. However, instead of showing and engaging students with technology; building interactive group activities or one-to-one interaction will bring our students closer to each other and also helps in improving socio-emotional skills. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!!

    1. Alyssa Johnson says: Reply

      Hi Gunpreesh!
      Thank you so much for your kind words, it is much appreciated. I am so excited to be in another grad class with you! 🙂
      I appreciate you mentioning a very proactive approach with building interactive group activities, which would allow for more personable interactions amongst students in the classroom. I believe that giving the students the opportunity to build and enhance their social-emotional skills is incredibly crucial in the classroom too! I often incorporate partner work, or small group work into my teaching practices in Kindergarten. Not only does it allow the students the opportunity for authentic and meaningful communication, but to also learn important life skills such as following rules together, taking turns, sharing, establishing friendships, etc.

  2. Hi Alyssa,
    I was curious what your take would be on this topic as I know you teach littles. As a middle school teacher I use tech with my students on a daily basis. However, we do not just use tech, we learn about tech. We spend time learning about online dangers like scammers, bullying and predators, but also about things like online etiquette and how to craft a digital footprint. We also look at using different types of platforms, programs and applications as well as jobs related to technology. Just recently my students learned how to code games using Scratch, and how to design and print 3D objects with TinkerCad. However, I think you make some excellent points about the dangers of tech taking the place of actual human interaction, or being used as a “babysitter”. I definitely think that use of technology is something for older students to explore a little more extensively than with the littles.

    1. Alyssa Johnson says: Reply

      Hi Jessica!

      I am so excited to be taking this grad class with you, a great way to still stay connected with a wonderful former colleague! 🙂
      I really respect and admire your approach in the classroom in regards to not only using technology but also teaching about it. On the topic of digital citizenship, I feel that these learning opportunities for many of our students perhaps do not always take place at home, so having those teachable moments and discussions in the classroom can be so beneficial.
      You are so right in the fact of how much tech use in the class can vary based on what grade you teach. You are doing such an amazing job Jessica on teaching and using tech with your middle years students, they are very lucky to have you as their teacher!

  3. Megan Henrion says: Reply

    Great post, Alyssa! I agree that using technology correctly in the classroom involves knowing when it enhances learning and finding that balance! I plan on starting the school year next fall with much more digital citizenship integration so that tech can be used properly and my students will learn how to be safe online! I do wish that we had more accessible PD for teachers on this topic though!

    1. Alyssa Johnson says: Reply

      Hi Megan!
      Thank you for reading my blog post and for your kind comments, it has been great to connect with you! 🙂
      Sounds like you already have a fantastic plan for next year about focusing on the important topic of digital citizenship. I always like that aspect of teaching that every year is a fresh start, and as we continue to learn and grow as educators with our approach to teaching, we then have almost a “clean slate” to do things differently the following year, and perhaps then to do them even better!
      I am hopeful that with things starting to open up again from Covid-19, that perhaps there will be more opportunity for in-person professional development, specifically tech based!

  4. Fasiha Taha says: Reply

    Thank you for your perceptive blog, Alyssa, I agree with you on the point of using technology in a balanced way. Technology is so integrated into our lives, that we must help students learn how to live a balanced life with technology. We can help students explore technology’s rightful place in their lives, and find their healthy balance as well as we as educators should find ways to integrate technology into our classroom in a balanced manner to enhance learning in our education system.

    1. Alyssa Johnson says: Reply

      Hello Fasiha!
      It is really great to hear from you! Thank you for reading my blog post and for your very kind comments! 🙂
      I appreciate your support on the topic of technology balance and how finding that in our lives, whether personally or professionally, is so crucial. I believe that if we are able to help our students develop these skills in the classroom based on balancing tech use, then hopefully they are then able to transfer those skills into their everyday lives and the future.

  5. Kelly Ziegler says: Reply

    Alyssa, your blog looks so great! I love how you have created links within your post to follow, as well as how you have easily presented the information from both groups, and what your thoughts were before and after the debate. I like how balanced your blog post is, and how balance is also a key theme of your post.

    1. Alyssa Johnson says: Reply

      Hi Kelly!
      Thank you so much for your kind comments! I know that my blog page is only a “start” for now, but I am pleased with how it has turned out so far, and of course will continue to develop it more as I learn more in our class! 🙂
      After the first debate, my thoughts were honestly all over the place, most likely due to the fact that both groups presented so much good information. I eventually was able to sit down and clear my head by organizing the information and dividing my blog post into two separate focus areas of both the agree and disagree side.
      I am also glad you enjoyed some of the links that I included too! You have been a huge help Kelly through our class Discord in assisting me with getting my blog page up and running, so a huge THANK YOU to you!

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