With Great Power


In an interesting twist, I’m starting my use of technology to enhance learning blog on the day Regina Public School’s entire network is shut down so our IT support can look into a malicious attack on the system.  No internet resulting in no board emails, no student Wi-Fi, no staff portal for those who had to call in sick, no photocopying, no printing, the list goes on.  Panic is upon us here, student learning has stopped, and the world will soon end, right? A quick walk down an empty hallway indicates otherwise, students are still engaged in learning.  I hear the normal sounds of a classroom, teachers explaining concepts and answering student questions, one teacher taking advantage of the beautiful day and taking their Visual Art class outside, and other teachers covering their content as usual.  Classrooms are still using technology to assist them, smartboards are running, assistive hearing devices are on, and the students are still using word processors to complete and save work on a funny thing called a USB flash drive.   For those teachers who are little more tech savvy, they’ve found a hot spot and are working within the online capabilities of their personal phones.  Everything is almost the same, well except board emails, but do we really miss those? 

A conclusion I find myself drifting towards in the great debate about education and technology is that there is a need to separate technology use in education from internet use in education.  I believe a person is hard pressed to not see the value non-web technology provides students, teachers, and education; examples include (but certainly are not limited to) the aids used to assist students with “different abilities”, the increased teacher time afforded by limiting medial tasks such as note taking,  the ability to read the notes because they were typed and are easily manipulated, the fact teachers can give more immediate student feedback, as well as, a greater learning experience created with the use of computer generated visuals (article is here for UofR students).  What are now considered simple innovations in the technology, computers, photocopiers, word processors, and overhead projectors are standard pieces of furniture in a Canadian classroom which contribute to a better learning for students.  In my own experiences as an Automotive teacher, the ability to create a safety video, take a picture of a part or video it’s removal from a vehicle, and access vehicle repair software has been priceless quickly and conveniently.  The advancements technology has been able to provide service equipment and the vehicles themselves has also made for a safer working environment.  

Image Source: https://bigdatapix.tumblr.com/post/87215374242/hadoop-the-matrix-big-data-done

With that out of the way, let’s muddy the waters and talk about the elephant in the room, the internet.  I fully expect this is where the heated discussion occurs.  Just like Neo in the first Matrix movie, if you decide to swallow the red pill, you’re choosing to go down the rabbit hole.  So many advantages to a shared resource data base that is not a set of aged Encyclopedia Britannica (for those who are like, what is he on about?).  What a great, environmentally friendly, communication device for schools, community, parents, and students.  And how wonderful is it when colleagues or student groups can share resources and work simultaneously on a tasks from anywhere.  Evident in last week’s debate and within the research shared is the growing concern from research of the negative effects the internet and technology are having on future generations of students.  Education is becoming de-humanized, there is added physical and mental concerns about device usage, and student focus is starting to become a real concern (source).  As both an educator and a parent of three young ones, it is concerning to know technology use at schools is contributing to unhealthy behaviors.  It’s scary to consider the evil side of technology and the impact it may have on society.  And there certainly appears to be the need for a “device reckoning” in the future.

When it comes to the internet I can think of no better adage then, with great power, comes great responsibility (are your Spidey senses tingling).  Technology and internet access are influencing (both positively and negatively) the world around us at a pace we’ve never seen before. As educators we have a duty to help young people navigate the world they live in. This week’s discussions have not changed my opinion about the use of technology in the classroom as a tool to enhance learning. However, the focus is again on the responsibility of education and society as a whole to incorporate technology which promotes learning in a safe, structured, and healthy manner. I feel strongly that internet usage is the number one enemy in the battle we are having with technology use in schools, but I am not naïve enough to believe we should just unplug students.


3 Replies to “With Great Power”

  1. Stephen I think you make an excellent point differentiating between Internet usage and technology use. It is funny to me that certain technologies, as they age, seem to no longer be considered technology at all. At one point radio revolutionized the world, but you would be hard pressed to find someone who refers to it as technology anymore. When the internet went down at our school I hauled out an ancient technology relegated to a dusty cart at the back of my classroom: the overhead projector. It assisted my instruction for the last couple of days (I am a resource hoarder so I had some old overhead sheets still in binders) and the kids learned just as well as if I had used a digital projector. We are constantly using all sorts of technologies that improve and assist our teaching practice, but we often only adorn that moniker to the latest and greatest.

    As a side note I too have not missed the deluge of emails in my inbox either. The high importance button is the most abused function in the history of Outlook.

  2. Stephen – great post! I really liked you point about not being naive enough to think we can just unplug out students. Technology is not going anywhere. With that said we as educators seem to be inundated with new tech each day and also with a pressure to use as much as we can. I think that a crucial element to effective tech use requires teachers to properly implement and planning in terms of how they are going to use tech. Teachers need to take the time to set very specific guidelines for student use, an well developed understand of digital citizenship, cell phone/tech etiquette and awareness of media literacies. I continue to struggle with the internal debate whether it is worth it to put in the time and effort implementing tech into my classroom….

  3. Isn’t it funny how we rely on technology for pretty much everything? With the current Regina Public situation, I have found myself thinking more consciously about what I am teaching, and how I am engaging the students. To be honest, even though it has been quite inconvenient, I am really appreciating the time to think outside of the box, come up with new things, as well as I am really appreciating not being tied to my email and all of other things that we do. I also think that it’s quite funny that all of our main systems are down, excpet for our report cards (Edsby having their own network and databases and all). For all of those that were so upset about the thought of Edsby not working and not being able to do their report cards, are probably pretty happy that we were given the go ahead to get them done!

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