Perhaps one of the questions that we encounter the most as a school is, “How do you use technology in the classroom?” It’s a fair question. In some schools, tablets are distributed to all students, assessments tests are completed online, students hand in all assignments digitally, and smart-boards don every classroom. Does all of this add up to better education?
The French philosopher, Jacques Ellul, says that we now live in a “Technological Society” devoted to technique. In his own words, “In our technological society, technique is the totality of methods rationally arrived at and having absolute efficiency (for a given stage of development) in every field of human activity.” What this means is that when it comes to judging the good or bad of anything, we evaluated it in terms of efficiency. Whatever is more efficiency is, ipso facto, better. And when it comes to digital advances for educational tools, they have, no doubt, made teaching more efficient. But have they made learning better? In this post, I’d like to explore 3 pros and 3 cons to using technology in education.
1. Allows for Multi-Sensory Experiences
Technology in the classroom certainly enables the teacher to better “bring an idea to life.” The availability of a projector to display multi-media presentations makes it possible for students to experience history or literature in new ways. The teacher who can show great works of art, historical re-enactments, dramatic interpretations, or digital representations of microscopic worlds, can open up the lesson to new horizons. To see animated maps of troop progressions through a battle or war, can help the student to understand strategy and stakes that might be difficult to see if its only text on a page.
2. Greater Convenience
Living in a digital age, we often forget that the printing press was one of (if not the) most important technological advances in history. No longer are we required to write out entire texts by hand. The advent of the typewriter and then the word processor have made the composition of written material much more efficient. While there are certain advantages to writing things out long-hand, the ability to type a paper and hand it in digitally is a major convenience. Teachers can receive a paper or test, check it for plagiarism, provide feedback, and return it to the student, all without having to print a single piece of paper.
3. Increased Resources
Who could deny that with ready access to the internet, teachers and students alike have increased access to more and more resources? We have at our fingers so much information and access to so many great works, that it is almost beyond our imaging. With a few clicks of a mouse or taps on a screen, we can go from the complete works of Dostoevsky to the repository of data collected by NASA. Any piece of information we might possibly need is just seconds away. This does create some difficulty separating the good information from the bad, but that we can so easily access things that used to be available only the wealthy, is undoubtedly a “pro” of technology.
The technologies available today is a valuable asset to teachers and students alike. Not only does it access open up a world of research possibilities and visual or auditory experiences, but it also allows for timely communication, submission, and feedback on assignments. Above all, it is a tool that, rightly used, improves the life of its user, be that a parent, teacher, or student.
But what are the setbacks of technology usage? When does a tool stop working for and start working against its user? Stop by the blog next week for a consideration of the pitfalls of technology in education.