Does Technology Help?

I think technology helps kid’s learning experiences in school and helps them in life. The problem is I cannot prove it.

Technology in the classroom has gotten some bad press as of late with the recent article in The New York Times. The primary focus of this article is schools where great amounts of money have been invested in technology will little or no gains in terms of test scores. As a teacher that has pushed technology use in the classroom, this was a tough pill to swallow and something I have reflected on at great length since originally reading the article.

With that being said, I think there are a few reasons why this article hits home with some and leaves others scratching their heads. As I have tried to wrap my head around the implications of this article I have come up with a few thoughts and certainly welcome feedback and conversation.

On one side of the argument are those that claim too much money is being sunk into technology at the expense of other programs and in some cases, staffing. I actually agree with this. In many districts, technology is purchased wholesale so that everyone can have an IWB in their room or that the latest and greatest software throughout the district. I have seen firsthand those purchases sitting unused or not used in a way that benefits students. Why not be wiser with our purchasing so that technology is being put in places where it will be used to benefit students. In addition, let’s make sure teachers are training on how to use these new tools so they don’t become glorified paperweights or wall decorations.

Another argument being made is that many technology tools don’t even help students but rather they help teachers. Again, I see some validity in this argument. The best example of this is the Interactive Whiteboard or IWB. Many districts, including my own, have sunk many thousands of dollars into popping these babies on nearly every classroom wall. My initial question is, why? Yes, they are interactive by definition but for who? The teacher? The one student that gets lucky enough to be the chosen one to go up to the board? I have seen more interaction with some dry erase markers, a desktop (an actual top of a desk), and a creative teacher.  If there is not a direct connection to student learning (not test scores) or engagement, then why are we buying it?

According to the article, standardized tests scores are not being raised as a result of technology usage. Standardized tests only gauge an individual’s ability to regurgitate facts. They do not illustrate any abstract thinking or an ability to think creatively or in a critical manner. When “they” say that technology does not improve test scores, they are probably right…but I am ok with that.

So, what good is technology and why should we have it in classrooms? Here are a few things that might not be on “the test” but I think might be worthwhile technology pursuits.

Global Collaboration – Technology allows students to connect with other students around the globe. This builds global perspective and empathy within our students. Many examples exist where students can connect and learn with/from students on the other side of the world. Is this on a test? Can this be done in a textbook?

Ease of Communication – Many technology tools allow students an ability to communicate and express their ideas in ways not normally possible. I have seen non-verbally communicative students able to express simple thoughts through the use of an ipad. Students that are unable to articulate their thoughts in writing have the ability to use voice recognition software to express and record their thoughts. This will not show up in standardized tests, but certainly shows up in classrooms where student’s frustration due to inability to communicate is eased.

Save Time – This might seem trivial but technology can help teachers and students save time. We are no longer typing papers multiple times but simply editing within a word processing program. Why spend hours thumbing through outdated paperback resources when a quick click can reveal more recent and more accurate info? All this time saving leads to more learning opportunities as well as more free time after school. If we can get things done quicker, is that not a good thing for kids and teachers?

Options – Technology is just another option in the arsenal of a good teacher and a good student. Many of the tools available allow teachers to present and share information in varying formats. This helps throw a larger net to engage and interest learners. More importantly, technology gives students options and choice in how they demonstrate and document their learning. For example, there are many ways to illustrate reading comprehension beyond a book report. Technology provides an array of options for students to show the learning beyond a bubble test.

Many of these items I have listed are not tested and frankly I don’t have any data to support them. I only have my observations and opinions for my experience in a classroom. I would encourage and ask you to share you examples of how you see technology helping your students and your teaching. 

20 comments:

Sylvia Duckworth said...

I use technology in my class for all of the reasons you mentioned above, but also because my students absolutely love it and are 100% engaged whenever I bring tech into the lesson and give them opportunities to interact with it. If it was up to them, we would be using technology all the time in class. Unfortunately we don't have the resources to do that just yet! But that would be my dream: to have a paperless class.

Stephanie said...

It isn't about the technology it is about the learning and the task (ie. nobody who bought a drill wants a drill, they want a hole).

But really if student are not able to successfully engage with online learning: being able to frame questions, analyse information, connect with others and produce content, they will be illiterate in a medium where the only constant is change.

However I think part of the problem is that purchasing is top down when technology is such a bottom up thing. It's why I think schools need to start moving to using open source and worrying more about the learning the tools.

Amy L said...

Part of why I believe technology needs to be used in the classroom is because our kids are so POWERED ON outside of our classroom walls. Why are we POWERING THEM DOWN when we bring them inside. We need to make sure we meet kids where they are, not where we are.....

educatedtodeath.com said...

Technology is imperative in our classrooms because it's a part of the everyday world. We're supposed to be preparing our students to enter a fast-paced global economy will cognitive flexibility that will allow the to solve and manage multiple problems at once. Tech is a huge part of this. The skills required to meet these challenges are developed through collaborative problem solving. Technology absolutely benefits student learning because it provides the experience they need to be global learners capable of creative collaboration. The problem is that standardized tests measure old skills taught in new ways. Education needs to cultivate new skills and test them differently. Technology is a poorly understood bandaid right now. It needs to be a part of a new medium.

pablohunny said...

I do dislike statistics. While grades may not be increasing after technology has been supplied, it is entirely possible that the technology isn't being used (or is being used incorrectly/ inappropriately) and therefore not having a positive impact on the lesson. I've actually seen examples where the tutor hasn't been properly trained and is so intimidated by the technology that their lessons have actually been negatively impacted.

Anyhow, personal bugbears aside, I do agree. Technology alone isn't the answer to any of the world's problems. It's how the technology is applied that has the affect and if it isn't relevant, there is no point in applying it in the first place. For those instances (and there are many) where including technology appropriately will have a benefit, it is worth the investment.

Matt Anthony said...

Interaction Increases with the use of responders or "clickers." Besides this full-class participation, it gives instant feedback on performance, which students love, even if they are wrong.

Chad C said...

I agree with you on the fact that technology when used in the right way helps students in many ways. I also agree with the fact that the results of standardized test scores does not prove that technology is not working. Isn’t the main goal of education to teach our children creative thinking to prepare them for college and work in the real world? The majority of the jobs that our students will have in the future do not exist today. Jobs that we have today did not exist 10 years ago. Technology has provided Global Communication that brings everyone together. Students that have access to technology have a head start on those who do not. If students are spending too much time playing around with technology, or being distracted by goofing off on a computer, then that is the teacher’s fault. The teacher needs to be educated on technology in order for it to be taught properly to students. Personally I have witness technology beneficial to students with special needs. From Alpha Smarts and SOLO read aloud software, to IPADs, these students have become more independent and able to work without teaching assistants.

The Doctor's Fez said...

Technology is definitely getting the short end of the stick here. I find it disturbing that people are losing their jobs in favor of tech that gathers dust; however, technology is essential to the classroom. As the world becomes more digital, the classroom cannot remain analog. Techonlogy makes us all more efficient. A classroom that does not impletent effective use of technology runs the risk of a disconnect with the students. People learn better when they are interested and engaged. Technology plays such a large part of their lives that incorporating it in the classroom is an easy way to get them involved and interested. I believe this anti-technology sentiment comes from a fear of change. The old guard does not trust it because they cannot grasp it. My grandparents can barely work their cell phones let alone write a text message.
Technology in the class still seems to be in a state of diffusion. Malcom Gladwell talked about diffusion in the Tipping Point. When a new product or innovation appears, people fall into several categories: innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggards. The laggards are the stubborn few who resist change even when everyone else has crossed the metaphhorical line.
I believe that is partially the reason much technology goes unused. Some people just do not trust it enough to implement it. They do not see a reason to change their ways. Ultimately, I believe technology helps. The world is becoming too digital not to make it imporant in class. Although you may not have any hard statistical evidence that supports the use of technology, the eye test can be a fairly reliable indicator too.

Kathleen said...

I support your belief that technology CAN help kid’s learning experiences in school and CAN help them in life. I work with students with special needs on a daily basis and incorporating technology into their learning has been a huge positive impact for most of the students. Technology for my students is a means of communicating their wants and needs and to learn academics as well. On CBS the other night, 60 minutes had a special on the iPad and people with Autism. After watching the video, I learned that students with Autism are making great strides with the iPad and improving their lives with the help of technology. So, I agree and support your belief that technology is important in our student’s lives and gives them more choices in their academic learning.

http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7385686n&tag=contentMain;contentAux

becca said...

Undoubtedly, technology has a place in today’s schools and classrooms. As a tool that is widely used in the world outside of schools, it is essential that students are being prepared through the use of technology to go out into our greater society and be productive members of our communities. As a staff member in a school exclusively for students with severe disabilities, I see the many benefits and uses of technology for the students. Primarily, with technology such as Dynavox and other types of communication devices, students are given the ability to not only interact with the world around them, but also communicate to others. Furthermore, I agree that there is not always frugality within districts when they are buying into certain technologies, like software. Certainly it would be advantageous for districts to spend more time researching and collecting data on types of technology that are not being used and others that are being used frequently. It would be beneficial for districts to reference this information in regards to what they are purchasing as well as gaining awareness concerning what technology has been beneficial in classrooms and what has not.

Becca said...

Undoubtedly, technology has a place in today’s schools and classrooms. As a tool that is widely used in the world outside of schools, it is essential that students are being prepared through the use of technology to go out into our greater society and be productive members of our communities. As a staff member in a school exclusively for students with severe disabilities, I see the many benefits and uses of technology for the students. Primarily, with technology such as Dynavox and other types of communication devices, students are given the ability to not only interact with the world around them, but also communicate to others. Furthermore, I agree that there is not always frugality within districts when they are buying into certain technologies, like software. Certainly it would be advantageous for districts to spend more time researching and collecting data on types of technology that are not being used and others that are being used frequently. It would be beneficial for districts to reference this information in regards to what they are purchasing as well as gaining awareness concerning what technology has been beneficial in classrooms and what has not.

King R said...

I am very passionate about technology in the classroom. Like you, working in the classroom, I can see how students make a connection to learning when technology is in use. Since education is under such scrutiny, there will be articles that have negative about teaching, the classroom and items in the classroom, from students to teachers to tools. The below article has reverse statistics from the New York Times article. I hope you enjoy. http://www.edtechactionnetwork.org/ed-tech-and-student-achievement

Amanda - Lewis Grad Stu. said...

I completely agree that school district spend way too much on technology that goes unused. The district that I work for does not have smart boards in every classroom however they did buy 2 smart tables for our 2 multi-needs classrooms. Although they are fun when they are used, I have not seen them used often. The students will play games on them from time to time but not actually use them to help them learn anything worthwhile. Also, I really liked what you said about using the ipads for communication. Recently on 60 Minutes they did a whole story about how ipads are being implemented for students with autism. This is a link to the story; http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7385686n&tag=segementExtraScroller;housing. I knew prior to watching this that ipads and Dynavox’s were great communication tools for non-verbal people, however, after watching this, my eyes really opened up to how much these sorts of devices allow our students to do. When working with students who have severe autism, it is unlikely they will ever take a standardized test, or be mainstreamed into a class however, how great is it that we now have technology like this for students like these? Communication is key in life and I only see technology getting better for the autistic/non-verbal community.

Ted said...

I agree that technology can help. But we must not forget the technology that made all of this possible, pen and paper. IBM, Microsoft, and Apple didn’t just “will” their ideas into existence, they wrote them down on a piece of paper. You mentioned editing in a word processing program. I think there is some merit in taking the time to proofread and identify mistakes in spelling, grammar, and structure of a document. I think we rely too much on technology, to the point where we are letting technology think for us. How many times have your students turned in something that had sentences that made no sense because there were incorrect words or phrases in it that were spelled correctly?
The district I work in has a huge literacy problem. I think it would benefit the students greatly if they did not use technology, but rather their brains to correct their compositions. That would teach them sentence structure, grammar, and how to construct a proper paper. If they rely on the technology, they would miss that learning experience.
I recently read an article on how students are forgetting to write. They are literally forgetting how to write because they are so dependent on technology to do it for them. The article mentions how students will go to their cellphones when they can’t think of a way to say something or how to write something down. They are more dependent on their cellphones than they are on their own minds. The article is titled, “Wired Youth Forget How to Write in China and Japan”. You can find it at: http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=CNG.74f06613ea91a1f1041b96c96477427f.561&show_article=1 Now, if those countries who are supposedly surpassing us in terms of educating their children are having this problem, what chance do we have?
By the way, I ran this through spellcheck before I posted it. 

Anthony Ndoca said...

I am reading this post as an assignment. With that said, I have been reading your posts with regularity now that I am aware of your blog. Interestingly enough, I was asked to agree, disagree, or support a blog post with further details/ideas. As it’s difficult to disagree with most of your writing, I believe that most of what you have written in this post is evidence enough that yes, technology helps. Does it improve test scores? Without question. If the content is more engaging and relevant to the lives of our students, test scores will improve. Last week, I was told by an innumerable amount of students how much more they like my “slideshows.” To stay relative and engaging, it’s most important to be changing the method by which material is conveyed to students. So, when I am finished teaching other teachers how to use Prezi effectively, I’ll be moving onto the next fancy method by which I can deliver instruction. During a blog assignment this afternoon, students made various references to the slides that I presented to them on Friday. If, on the Monday of Halloween, students can make a reference to what would normally be a boring slideshow presented on a Friday; that is enough evidence that “technology helps.”

Dru F. said...

I totally agree with you that technology helps students, especially when it comes to the ease of communication. There was an episode on 60 minutes recently about elementary school teachers using iPad’s with students with autism that have trouble communicating. They use the iPad to use words, identify animals, and match pictures with words. There was one student that do not talk and when then lion came on the screen he actually roared. When the parents of the student saw this the mom broke down in tears because her son was not able to do that without technology. You might not be able to see that on standardized tests but that is helping the student in their life as well as the parents life’s. Global connections are another great way to use technology. In college we had to have pen pals from another country in international marketing. If we used web cams or skype, we could have actually talked faced to face. That could have been so beneficial to actually talk to another student from a different country and learn their prospective on education. I also agree with you that some teachers waste the technology that they do have. It is all about the user behind the technology, if you use your white board in a limited matter you are wasting your time, the student’s time, and the schools money. You need to be creative when it comes to the use of technology.

Dru F. said...

I totally agree with you that technology helps students, especially when it comes to the ease of communication. There was an episode on 60 minutes recently about elementary school teachers using iPad’s with students with autism that have trouble communicating. They use the iPad to use words, identify animals, and match pictures with words. There was one student that do not talk and when then lion came on the screen he actually roared. When the parents of the student saw this the mom broke down in tears because her son was not able to do that without technology. You might not be able to see that on standardized tests but that is helping the student in their life as well as the parents life’s. Global connections are another great way to use technology. In college we had to have pen pals from another country in international marketing. If we used web cams or skype, we could have actually talked faced to face. That could have been so beneficial to actually talk to another student from a different country and learn their prospective on education. I also agree with you that some teachers waste the technology that they do have. It is all about the user behind the technology, if you use your white board in a limited matter you are wasting your time, the student’s time, and the schools money. You need to be creative when it comes to the use of technology.

Jamie said...

I agree that technology is extremely useful and helpful in the classroom, especially in classrooms with students with special needs. Much of this has been shown and documented in the CBS news article that I will link below. Also, from personal experience, I work with young students with autism. Many of the students that I work with are non-verbal or they have limited verbal ability. Recently, the school where I work was given a grant to provide iPads to our speech department. When the students are able to use these devices to communicate, they almost always become much calmer, if they are being aggressive at that time, they will usually stop once they are able to communicate their needs. The iPads make this possible for them.

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18560_162-20124225/apps-for-autism-communicating-on-the-ipad/

Tina said...

Perhaps it cannot be proved with research studies that technology enhances the classroom. Educational research in general is limited in scope. I believe that brain research supports the incorporation of technology. In the book “Brain Rules” by John Medina, a main premise centers on vision. It trumps all other senses. We learn best through pictures, not through written or spoken words. A great way to incorporate technology in the classroom is through visual aids, whether they are picture slideshows, videos, or video animations. Additionally, Medina has a chapter about attention that details a 10 minute segment block for lectures as the most optimal format. Each segment begins or closes with something engaging, a hook that triggers emotion, which could be supported with the use of technology. For more information, check out www.brainrules.net.

Students can attest to the benefits of incorporating technology in the classroom. Technology undoubtedly engages students in ways that traditional instruction cannot. Since so much of real world communication occurs in mediums involving technology, use in the classroom gives students a relevant medium. Part of preparing students for the real world is exposing them to cutting-edge technology and making them competent at managing the world wide web, using applications like Prezi and Excel, and learning how to critically judge the reliability and validity of websites, among other pertinent skills. It helps students develop problem-solving skills, encourages creativity, and is a great resource to use for information about any given subject.

That being said, I think it’s important to consider the relevance and purpose of technology in each lesson. I think that at times teachers and districts use technology just for the sake of using technology.

Erin J said...

You have made many great points about the importance of technology in the classroom. I also feel that technology is imperative to the educational process of students. Personally, I have worked with special education students in a general education classroom which contained students with LD/BD as well as students with Autism. This class consisted of students who were learning at different paces and by doing activities on computers, the teacher could assign work that would fit each students need and learning ability. The use of technology in classrooms with students with disabilities allows the students to work at their own pace, and to feel as though they are really part of the general education classroom. If they can do activities along with their peers and not always be taken out of the classroom when it comes time to do handouts or homework they will be able to make more progress socially and receive the benefit of learning from their peers.

In addition, technology is very helpful in general for students with learning disabilities because there are many activities, as well as visual aids that can be gained from technology that are of large benefit to many students with disabilities.