It’s a tricky question. In order to answer it, we need to first examine what technologies are proposed for the classroom environment, where they come from, and what their effects are on the students.
We should also consider their effects on the learning institutions in which they’re used (i.e. budgetary requirements, etc.).
Despite being a critically important question for everyone, we should be prepared for an answer which isn’t very direct. The value in trying to answer it can be found in the conversations (or debates) that it inspires.
Let’s begin with an important yet similarly difficult question.
What are the technologies used in the classroom? If you look at mobile apps alone, there are tens of thousands of them offered in the iTunes app store. Simply put, if you want a technology to help in the learning process, there’s probably one out there for you. Whether it’s an electronic whiteboard or a digital microscope with an iphone app like Zoomy, your choices are only limited by your intended application in the classroom.
Social media is an example of technology that can potentially enhance or paralyze learning, depending on how it’s used. The effects of social media are often explained in news headlines involving inappropriate texts. Unfortunately, the technology itself is quickly blamed as a root cause of the problem rather than the lack of technical resources to properly use and maintain it in schools.
The International Society for Technology in Education is an organization that advocates the use of technologies in the classroom. They offer guidelines for how to implement them. Much of what they advocate is represented in their “pedagogy of science, technology, engineering and mathematics” (STEM) teaching.
Irrespective of whether technologies present themselves in an international symposium or through the ambitions of students who want to compete in a robotics competition, the end result relies on building a system of learning where the technology plays an appropriate role and which does not dominate over core learning objectives.
One positive example is Edmodo, which is expected by many to change the way social media is used in primary and secondary schools. So far it has signed up more than 60,000 schools, and their popularity is still growing. In my opinion, this is what should keep people grounded when there is public outrage over a growing epidemic of cyberbullying in high schools.
Interestingly, technology is sometimes the underlying theme of a school curriculum. Those models exist in developing countries, where they are simultaneously building the collective skill set of their population while promoting the growth of their economy.
In a nutshell, if you’re looking for an answer to this very elusive question, this is the best I can offer: The question of how much technology should be used in the classroom is more of an exercise for the learning institution rather than something for which there is only one answer. Technology has always been used as a tool to enhance a student’s ability to learn. Determining how much and what kind of technology to use cannot be settled until the classroom objectives are first addressed. Technology for technology’s sake is when it becomes a bad thing.
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