I interviewed a colleague after school on Friday, January 20th, at school Steveston-London Secondary. The interviewee has been teaching Junior and Senior Sciences, as well as Junior Math, in the Richmond School District for approximately 9 years. In the context of the interview, we discussed aspects of digital technology in one of her current classes – Science 10.
The primary issues discussed were how technology is used in her classroom and the subsequent advantages and disadvantages to using them. The interviewee stated that she used technology on a “daily basis” but the “levels of degree” varied day to day. She typically uses PowerPoint presentations combined with pictures and videos to augment lessons and present “vital concepts and lecture.” The teacher also uses other forms of technology to enhance school material and this can take a variety of forms including: online simulations, formative assessment tools, devices for research projects or to fill in study guides and/or other programs to collect data or for graphing purposes.
The educator feels that technology has the potential to transform learning with its ability to “increase student interest” and “as a result, increase learning.” She feels that there are many benefits in using technology as it largely increases focus, motivation, and the interaction with the material. She does have some reservations in that technology alone does not necessarily promote “increased learning.”
In contrast, technology can also be a distraction to students. For educators, troubleshooting and the time required to develop and implement technology can be drawbacks. At times, the technology, particularly hardware, is also not always available to be used in the classroom with limited resources. In summary, the educator strongly believes that advanced technology is vital and inevitable to teaching materials in classrooms.
- How do you implement or integrate technology into your classroom?
I use technology almost on a daily basis but to varying levels of degree each day. Minimally, I use a digital projector and present the vital concepts and lecture through PowerPoint presentations. These usually include pictures and other images to enhance the presentations. At times I also include videos or YouTube clips to further show or demonstrate science concepts.
Besides lecture presentations, how else do you use digital technology in the classroom?
Throughout the year and depending on the topic being covered we also digital technology for:
- classroom homepage (to update students on homework)
- using websites to find information and fill in study guides
- (through the use of laptops and/or desktops)
- formative assessment (e.g. online quizzes)
- online simulations (earth science and physics unit)
- graphing programs (physics unit)
- data collection programs (physics unit)
- What are some positive learning experiences for students have you encountered by using technology?
I feel that there are several positives to using digital technology:
- Greater focus and motivation when using digital technology
- Increased immersion with the material
- Allows for greater interaction between the content being learning
- In certain instances allows to complete material at their own pace
- Greater immediacy with the material
What are some negative learning experiences?
- At times, can be a distraction (with access to laptops and devices)
- Troubleshooting apps, programs or even simply logging
- Also, if sites are down or closed and lessons are based on them sometimes it’s hard to find a replacement or alternative site with the same information
- Do you feel that an increased implementation of technology in the classroom corresponds to increased learning?
I think it really depends on the specific material being taught at the time. Certain concepts or materials are more inclined to using technology. Technology can certainly increase student interest in a particular concept and as a result, increase learning. I’m not sure if technology alone is responsible for increased learning. If a student does an online quiz it doesn’t necessarily indicate more learning has occurred if the quiz was down on the overhead. In terms of ‘higher’ technology – perhaps more learning has occurred if a student has completed a simulation as opposed to simply reading a book.
- What limitations does technology impose on your classroom?
As much as I would like to increase the use of technology in the classroom, there are some limiting factors.
One concern is the availability of hardware. Our department has 15 desktops and 15 laptops but as these are shared with around 10-11 science teachers sometimes the hardware is not always available to use. Further, with usually only around 15 devices per any one class, students often have to share equipment and are unable to use one for themselves.
Another factor is the time it takes to locate and/or develop lessons that use the technology. This can be a time-consuming process, especially with courses proceeding throughout the year.
In regards to the availability of hardware, how do you feel about the use of students bringing their own digital devices (cell phones, etc) to use in the classroom?
I think given certain conditions that I would allow students to bring and use their own
devices. It works particularly well for things like online quizzes (Kahoot) and occasionally for doing things like research. The one drawback is that it is difficult to sometimes monitor 30 students if they are all using their own devices but generally, it has worked well.
- How can technology transform learning? Do you have an example?
As I mentioned previously, technology allows students to fully interact with the material they are learning about. For example, during the Earth Science unit the class uses a PhET simulation to visualize and understand the Greenhouse Effect. They are able to control and manipulate different conditions and see an immediate transformation in the simulation. This is a very different learning experience from simply reading it out of the textbook and through a lecture.
- Can you share how your assessment of student learning has changed with the integration of digital technology into your math or science classroom?
I think different websites allow for more opportunities of formative assessment. Things like Kahoot allow students to see what they currently and immediately understand. Although there are the occasional technical issues (internet access at times, device availability), generally students greatly benefit from the technology.
- What are some challenges in the future for classrooms around technology?
As mentioned above, the availability of the technology in the classroom is one challenge. Another is the time it sometimes takes to locate, test, and implement the technology (whether it’s a device or program or app). I think also that even though there is a ‘push’ for increased technology in the classroom, it doesn’t always translate to increased learning and it’s important to recognize when technology should or shouldn’t be used.