The Case for Ridding Schools of Technology

Tech can provide a huge range of opportunities for learning, I don't think you can argue against that. But I sometimes think there needs to be a little thought into what's used, how it's used, and what the outcomes are.

A post in which I debate with Tom Starkey the case for ridding schools of technology. He is arguing for, and I am arguing against.

Does using technology better prepare them for the world beyond school?

The case against: Ask yourself: Are children currently in classroom likely to be using more or less technology by the time they get to university? The answer is a resounding yes. Even 20 years ago the advancements made in mobile devices would have been almost inconceivable, whereas now even the most tech averse grown ups have a smartphone. Children need to be taught how to safely navigate the internet, as well as the impact that posting content online can have in terms of their digital footprint. Sharing and curating media content about ourselves is not only an essential skill, in fact, digital literacy is one of the most important skill a child can master in the classroom.

The case for: Yes, but by the time kids do get into the wider world, the stuff they were instructed in the use of could well be obsolete. Instead of focusing on the tech itself, we should be focusing on the learner; trying to instill in them an attitude where they are not afraid to use any tool at their disposal. An attitude where they are self-aware, critical, unafraid. If this is done, then everything else slots into place, including effective use of tech. I worry that if we focus too much on particular tools, we take away from what is the most important, namely the person using them.

Does using technology increase levels of engagement in learning?

The case against: 'Engagement' is not the same as fun. Engagement is purposeful learning where students understand what they are trying to achieve and (one would hope) know how to achieve this. Can technology help here? Plonking a child in front of a computer or mobile device does not guarantee they will learn better, or more. What helps a child do that is using technology to give meaningful feedback, extending the learning beyond the classroom walls, and giving children the kind of learning opportunities that are not possible on paper. You tell me what has more meaning - filling in a worksheet for one teacher, or blogging to a global audience? Engagement is all about hard work and being immersed in learning. If teachers have the knowledge to achieve this, then not using technology for this purpose would be criminal.

The case for: Technology doesn't engage on its own (no-matter what the salespeople say). It's the teacher that does that. You could have all the bells and whistles in the world but that doesn't automatically equate to engagement. If you're using technology in the hope that something whizzy and shiny will lure them in then you're likely to end up pretty disappointed. Engagement comes from planning. If technology can help with something that you're doing then great, factor it in, but don't use tech as a crutch for engagement because it isn't. Ipad or pen and paper, a decent lesson can be engaging no matter what you're using.

What about technology offers that opportunities that paper simply can't?

The case against: If work is better done, or the learning better accommodated on paper, then paper is what teachers should use. One of the most depressing sights in a school that has 1:1 devices is classrooms of kids word processing their notes. What like typing it out is going to magically help them pass a GCSE?! Nope. Technology should be used to do something that you can't do on paper. Podcast, VBlog, blog and work collaboratively. Using technology to word process is pretty much a waste of time. Finally don't forget, being innovative doesn't have to involve using technology. You can be innovative, revolutionary and rebellious using paper - but I don't see anyone wanting to ban that from our schools?

The case for: Tech can provide a huge range of opportunities for learning, I don't think you can argue against that. But I sometimes think there needs to be a little thought into what's used, how it's used, and what the outcomes are. Just because you can do something, does not necessarily mean that you should. What's the aim? What's the benefit? I don't think that 'getting familiar with the technology' is a good enough reason on its own. There has to be an underlying point that will further the student's knowledge or learning in whatever subject they're in. Otherwise, why bother?

This was argued with Tom Starkey, who been a teacher for twelve years and has worked in Secondary, FE and special provision. He also writes about teaching and educational technology @tstarkey1212


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