EC&I 830

Teachers Enhance Learning, Technology Can Help

Technology in the classroom enhances learning – do you agree or disagree? My debate partner, Janeen Clark, and I were committed to finding out how to defend the argument that technology does not enhance learning in the classroom — although we may have been the only two people in our class voting that way pre-debate. When starting our research for this debate topic, we were both…a little nervous. Although I have had some minor struggles with technology use in my classroom over the years, I still believe in the positive impact it has on student learning. Janeen and I had our work cut out for us, but we were fully committed to learning as much as we could about our side of the debate and took our position very seriously. By the time we presented our debate topic, I think I had almost convinced myself into believing our arguments, or at least to be more critical when considering the ways in which I incorporate technology into the classroom. 

If I think about all of the tech-based resources and tools I have used over the years to support learning in subjects like ELA, Dance, Performing Arts, Phys Ed, etc., I would never be able to give them up — they are ingrained in how I teach. The tech tools I’ve implemented make lessons more engaging, meaningful, and accessible to students. My personal experiences would side with the research from this article stating that technology “can produce significant gains in student achievement and boost engagement, particularly among students most at risk” when used in pedagogically sound ways. The idea that technology does not enhance learning seems hard to dispute. The students in my classes are currently using audiobooks and google read and write to support their learning in ELA, they are viewing and engaging with video examples on YouTube or other streaming platforms and using online dance training/tutorials in Dance, and they are connecting with guest speakers/artists from around the world in the BAC program. Implementing these tools most definitely enhances learning for students. 

However, there was research that helped to sway my vote and make me think more critically about how to implement technology in more effective ways in my classroom. Here are the arguments that impacted my thinking the most:

Technology is a distraction. Even while writing this blog post, I have been distracted by technology approximately 100 times. And let’s be clear: there is no one to blame for this but myself. I could very easily turn off my phone and close my email, but because I am addicted to technology for whatever reason, I don’t have the willpower to disconnect. If I can’t self-regulate my own tech use, how can I expect my students to have this skill mastered? According to a study conducted by Associate Professor Barney McCoy discussed in this article, “students are more distracted than ever” and “tend to check their digital devices, particularly, their smartphones, an average of 11.43 times during class for non-classroom activities.” “Fighting boredom” is the main reason cited as to why students are distracted which circles back to the idea that engaging lessons and sound teaching practices are needed to capture student attention and in turn enhance their learning. Technology could definitely be one of the ways to engage students, but it needs to be used thoughtfully and in pedagogically sound ways. 

Too much screen time is bad for your health. As stated in our debate “roughly half of children and youth exceed the public health screen time recommendation of 2 hours per day or less. Evidence suggests that screen time is deleteriously associated with numerous health indicators in child and youth populations, including obesity, aerobic fitness, quality of life, self-esteem, pro-social behavior, academic achievement, depression, and anxiety (2017).” This information was presented in a master’s thesis written by Amanda Strom outlining “The Negative Effects of Technology for Students and Educators” with a focus on the negative health outcomes of too much screen time. Furthermore, the thesis states that “the technology expectations and amount of screen time that students are required by their teachers on a daily basis is negatively impacting student mental health, physical health, and the learning process as a whole.” If I think about the classes I teach, including Dance and Physical Education/Wellness, I want to find ways to enhance the health of students. I want them to be active and interactive, while moving their bodies, building relationships, and collaborating in person with other students. The classes I teach are a way for students to do something other than sit and stare at a screen. Based on this information, I will be mindful of how much time students spend using technology as a way to support the various aspects of their health.

Technology is not a replacement for good teaching. I think this may have been the point that helped us sway the post-debate vote.  Teachers are the most important piece of the learning puzzle, not the tools they use. Letting a group of teachers know that what they do with their students has the biggest impact on learning likely worked in our favor when it came to voting. This article states that “technology doesn’t replace good teaching” and provides good advice for teachers about how they can implement technology in effective ways to support students learning. Another study done in Columbia by Corredor and Olarte (2019) showed that “technology itself cannot increase student learning.” Pedagogy is an important factor in the equation.

Closing thoughts. Debating this topic was a great learning experience. Of course, I will still use technology in my classroom; however, having to argue this side of the debate has reminded me that technology in the classroom is only as useful as the teachers who choose to use it. As stated in our closing arguments, “Technology is here to stay, and we depend on it. However, the question we should focus on is this: how can we ensure we are using technology effectively, and that we are preparing students to use technology critically? Like any resource we use – a textbook, an abacus, a microscope, it’s not about the tool, it’s about the teaching. Technology isn’t a replacement for good pedagogy, and technology can’t enhance learning without good teaching practices.” So now I’m curious. What was the most valuable information you took away from this debate and how will it impact your teaching practice?

My name is Catrina Hunter. I am an Arts Educator at Balfour Collegiate on Treaty 4 Territory. I work as part of Balfour Arts Collective, a high school program for students who are passionate about the arts. I am currently working on my Master's in Education Curriculum and Instruction.

One Comment

  • Brendon Weir

    Hey Catrina,

    I really enjoyed your and Janeen’s take on the argument that Tech does not enhance learning in classes.

    While I agree that technology in the classroom can enhance learning when used in pedagogically sound ways. However, there are also valid concerns that should be addressed, such as the potential for technology to be a distraction and the negative impact of too much screen time on students’ health. It is important for teachers to be mindful of these issues and use technology thoughtfully to support student learning. Ultimately, good teaching is the most important factor in student learning, and technology should be seen as a tool to enhance, rather than replace, effective teaching practices.

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