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.
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.