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Is technology really the future?

 Technology is now integrated in our everyday lives, that is a fact. With the recent experience of the Covid-19 pandemic it is inevitable that our teaching will become more technology-led as we move forward. I believe that anything that can enhance our teaching and students’ learning is worth exploring!


However, what are the pros and contras of using technology in the classroom? Should teachers and students embrace it? 

As I respond to these questions, I will try to explore the evidence and arguments in this area to consider the strength and limitations of using educational technology.

New technology can often appear exciting, however to ensure it has an impact on teaching and learning it should be clearly planned and implemented considering any initial training, time and resources needed. Unfortunately, not all school have the resources to equip all of their students with their own iPads, Chromebooks or laptops and not all teachers/students are fully confident about how to use OneNote, TEAMs or even SMHW effectively, therefore establishing that both parties have the skills needed to use it, is essential.

I am of the opinion that when used constructively, EdTech can support educators in improving learning outcomes. It can improve the quality of explanation and modelling as well as engage and motivate our learners. However, the relationship between technology, motivation and achievement is complex and monitoring how it is used is important (EEF, Digital technology guidance report, 2018). 

EdTech can also support classroom practitioners in terms of assessment and feedback – increase the accuracy and the speed of collecting assessment data as well as reduce the workload. What it can’t do for us is, to decide what we – the teachers do with this information and how our learners act upon the feedback provided. It is still up to us to determine what the next step, action or intervention is.


Being a M(F)L teacher, I have always found technology to be a great way to support my learners in their acquisition of the German language; whether it is to aid content delivery through audio-visual materials, to complement retrieval practice via interactive quizzes such as Quizlet or Carousel Learning or encouraging the use of online apps to support homework.

However, after engaging with Paul Kirschner’s presentation on technology (Chartered College), encoding, task switching (how it affects learning and processing) and the fact that digital natives don’t exist, we have to ask a paramount question whether schools are willing to allow teachers the time and flexibility to teach the effective use of technology which requires direct and explicit instruction. Are we willing to invest the time and money in technology despite its shortcomings? 


Every year I spend considerable amount of time explicitly teaching my new year 7 classes how to use some of the websites and apps that we use for our learning HWK and every year there are students out there who even after this explicit modelling and 4-5 weeks into the Autumn term still struggle how to set up an account, how to take a screen shot and how to upload it to SMHW (this supports Kirschner’s view about ‘digital natives’). Not to mention that in the 21st century Britain, I still have students who don’t have the access to a Wi-Fi or a laptop as many families struggle financially! This was also highlighted by the recent experience of home learning during the Pandemic.


What has also resonated with me is the research of the use of laptops in the class. I found it very interesting to know that when students are making notes or working on their writing tasks on a laptop the processing is missed and the fact that handwritten notes are more beneficial in terms of processing (Kirschner’s slides provide a clear insight into ‘processing = learning’). 

It is worth mentioning that in my own classroom, I have observed many of my students making more spelling mistakes on a computer when typing than when writing by hand. We also have to take into account the other distractions that the internet and messaging pose.


So is technology the future?


I think technology definitely has a place in education. There are many tools and websites that we can use effectively. I, personally think that retrieval, especially revisiting content, low-stakes quizzing is well delivered very effectively via technology and also provides an immediate feedback. 

My most favourite and useful go to websites that I use or have used are: Wheel of Names, Flippity, Quizlet, LearningApps, Wordwall, Quizizz, Carousel learning, Whiteboards.fi, Language Gym, MicrosoftTeams.


The global pandemic and the shift to remote teaching and learning made clear the huge gap between students learning experiences. Those learners with accessibility at home, mostly managed a fairly smooth transition, yet many colleagues also reported having to drive around to students’ homes and drop off packs of photocopied worksheets, books or lend out school laptops so their students could access and complete their home learning.


The piece of caveat is to remember that technology will not replace the traditional teaching methods. We need to be aware that the brain is most effective at learning when it is provided a balanced cognitive load.


The most important thing to remember is that technology does not replace quality first teaching.


2 Comments


Guest
Nov 28, 2023

I completely agree with your post, Frau Bastow. I use the computer roomso students are on an equal footing. I seldom use applications on the board to a whole class. I send assigments on Teams with links but I firmly believe the engage and processing need to be fostered by the teacher first with scaffolded activities encouraging learning and memorising, then production. I find students need the pen to paper/ role play experience to activate their processing. When sending work online, I ask for a picture if the copy (and a recording sometimes). I use sentencebuilders.com, the Language Gym, Kahoot, Decktoys, Blooket, Quizlet and wordwall. Also use Nualang.com to input my own courses, with questions and answers translated, listened to,…

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Love your approach, it really resembles mine! Online tools can be useful, however, as you mention, they cannot replace the teacher!

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