Does Technology Enhance Student Learning?

As per my first blog post, I cannot live without technology; I utilize it for just about everything. As for technology in the classroom and whether it is enhancing students’ learning, I am caught on the fence about whether I truly believe it is enhancing student learning.

Yes, I believe that technology improves access to information and efficiency in communication and grading, but is all of this “education” really helping students to acquire the skills, knowledge and understanding they need?

What Students Think

MS Forms Results, May 12-13, 2022
Forms Submission May 12, 2022

In preparation for this debate I had the idea to poll my grade 10-12 students (yes, using technology – MS Forms) about their views on technology in the classroom and whether it was enhancing their learning. I only had 24 students respond (that’s what I get for making an “optional” assignment…), BUT of those 24, there were many that said that technology does enhance their learning! Many said that access to the internet and Google were advantages, along with visuals for better understanding. Many also answered “both”, that technology both enhances and hinders their learning, with the most prevalent reason being that technology is a distraction (10 students!). 


Forms Submission May 12, 2022

This idea that technology is a distraction is mentioned in just about every source on technology use. In his Ted Talk, Richard Chambers (2017), states that people are checking their phones over 150 times a day, that these distractions and redoing of tasks are making us less effective learners and producers. In another Ted Talk, (from the pro side), Jason Brown (2016), speaks about students “drifting away” by their cell phones, which takes away from valuable learning time. 

Moving Forward

This debate could not have come at a better time, call it serendipity! At this moment I am witnessing my love for technology integration in the classroom clash with misuse of technology in the classroom. When I read Strauss’s (2014) article on Clay Shirky, I could not believe what I saw! Shirky’s comments on how he used to have a “laissez-faire” attitude about technology in the classroom, is exactly my attitude and policy at the moment. But as this school year comes to an end, I am debating whether I will follow in Shirky’s footsteps and ban technology in the classroom all together or follow Michael Brouet’s advice and have my students put away their phones – physically away from them – when teaching a specific skill. I do have phone “pockets” in my classroom that I currently just use for quizzes and exams.

Again, I asked my students what they thought about when teachers completely ban technology from the classroom. Many groaned, some stated that they needed their phone for music to calm anxiety, and others insisted that even without their phones they would become distracted and zone out. But, this again brings me back to the Shirky article, where he speaks about “coming to see student focus as a collaborative process”, where my role should be to help students focus on a single task. To start and finish a lesson, assignment, or lab without distractions. And I think I can enhance their learning (and retention?!?) by requiring each student to shelf their device, unless the assignment requires it. 

ES 20 Students Pond Dipping!

I am also reminded of my gained knowledge from past graduate classes on culturally responsive pedagogy and Indigenous Education. What does education for all look like? How can teachers create environments for the best learning? In Fall 2021, I took a class with Jeff Cappo, the Indigenous Coordinator for Regina Public Schools. His work around land-based education is incredible and something that I strive for. Is it serendipitous that he posted this just a couple of days after our debate? I think so!

Questions Moving Forward

  1. More for middle/high school years – What is your classroom cell phone policy? And why?
  2. Does your school have a “bring your own device” policy? What does it look like?
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3 Responses to Does Technology Enhance Student Learning?

  1. Leona Stephen says:

    The fence is where I sit. I really appreciated the quote from the Ted Talk you alluded to – 150 checks in a day – the impact is redoing what we could have just simply done once and done it well. I have had a fairly firm no cell phones when I teaching policy – however I am about to through out every cell phone in sight – come in strong next year an state they are not allowed in my classroom.

  2. Jessica P says:

    Well done on your debate Nicole. I’m essentially a technologically minded, teacher but I also understand that technology can be both a blessing and a curse. I do not let my students have their cell phones on them in class but they can store them in their lockers. I will sometimes let them listen to music with their phones in their pocket during art or work periods but I am fortunate to have enough laptops for each students so it is not necessary for the students to use their phones for work. I honestly think that student phones should be put away during class time.

  3. Kelly Ziegler says:

    I love the prompting questions at the end. I always leave a few for people to answer if they are not knowing what to write. I also appreciate them because after reading several blog posts, I feel like I begin to write the same things over and over.

    As for the cellphone policy, we had a universal one from K-8 at my last school. At this school, it is dependent upon the classroom. Right now, I have a policy where kiddos have to ask to use their devices. Students who have proven that they are being good digital citizens and following our collaborative rules around technology, get to use them more often. However, the school that I am at now has quite a large digital divide, and thus I don’t focus on bringing out cellphones very often. I think it depends year to year, and classroom to classroom for sure.

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