Why the focus on Technology?

techIn the Future Tense audio (ABC,2012), Whitby suggests that the central issue regarding technology in education shouldn’t be the technology itself (relating to the amount and type of technology being used) but the quality of the teaching and the quality of the learning. He suggests that teachers need to learn to utilise the tools effectively to acquire quality teaching and learning. I agree. I think one must always consider what is the best tool for the job and consider, should technology actually be used? Why should we use the technology if it does not lead to the best learning outcomes for our students?

Many in education today believe that giving students technology will not miraculously improve educational outcomes.’ We have moved forward from Marc Prensky’s ‘digital natives, digital immigrants’ debate from 2001 to understand that technology should not be used just because our students have been born within a technologically rich age. Bain & Weston (2012) state within their Faulty Assumptions about ICT and Schools that “increasing access and use of ICT has no effect on student achievement”(p.9). As current teachers, I believe we have all seen evidence of this within our own schools. I know in my school, all year 7s began the year with an iPad each but for what is intended to be a tool used to enhance their learning, has also proven to be fraught with problems.

We have also seen many criticisms regarding the effects of technology on children and this will only put more pressure on teachers to ensure that the technology they are choosing to use within the classroom is positively effecting teaching and learning. An example of this can be found in this online article that refers to the late Steve Jobs and his decision to give his children a technology free education (http://nextshark.com/why-steve-jobs-didnt-let-his-kids-use-ipads-and-why-you-shouldnt-either/).

Early in the Future Tense audio (ABC,2012), when Philip Calill is being interviewed, the idea of technology taking away children’s creativity is discussed. Calill suggests that the iPad is not a creative tool and that open ended learning is often taken away. This is discussed further in this article found on the Huffington post site (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nate-hanson/the-last-generation-of-ki_b_6139504.html).

As teachers we have all seen technology being used well and technology being used not so well within the classroom and I think there are many reasons why an emphasis continues to be placed quite highly on ICT in our classrooms. For one, we now have the technology there. For many of us, the schools have put the money into getting the hardware, the apps, the infrastructure; so we may as well use it. In my school I can now use technology because its easily accessible. I no longer have to book my students into a designated room but can access technology like the web, in my artroom via their own iPads, making online research quite easy. I also use it because my students enjoy it and if it can be used (especially in my year 7 and 8 classes), in a way that turns it into a game-like experience, the boys I teach are easily engaged. The challenge here though is to bring what they are doing in line with my program outcomes.

I also know why I don’t use it and have my students leave their iPads in their bags in the hallway outside. As an art teacher, I want my students to be engaged in the creative experience of making their artworks. I want to give them the experience of getting messy creating paintings and sculptures and sometimes, their iPads do get in the way (1 – I worry about the device getting damaged, even if they don’t; 2 – some will try anything to sneakily play their favourite game).

I believe Saettler (Roblyer & Doerring, 2013) has a similar attitude to Whitby with his comments relating to computer information systems as being used to reflect concepts, hopes, beliefs, attitudes. As teachers we are required to use what is available to us, be it technology or otherwise, to enrich our students’ learning. Watson (2001) also referred to technological change in education similarly by suggesting that intervention is needed with educational ideas, not simply technological ones (p.264).

So, yes, I do agree with Whitby that the central issue is the quality of teaching and learning. I agree that ICT offers us many amazing tools to use within the classroom, as teachers we just require the means, the confidence and the knowledge to use them effectively.

References

The ABC. (2012). 21st century education. Future Tense. Retrieved 25 November, 2014, from http://www.cshe.unimelb.edu.au/resources_teach/framework_teach/docs/9principles.pdf

Bain, A. & Weston, M.E. (2012). The Learning Edge. New York: Teachers College Press.

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. On the Horizon, 9(5), 1-6.

Roblyer, M. D., & Doering, A. H. (2013). Integrating educational technology into teaching. Boston, Mass: Pearson.

Watson, D.M. (2001). Pedagogy before Technology: Rethinking the Relationship between ICT and Teaching. Education and Information Technologies, 6(4), 251-266.