Value Added

I believe good use of technology is anything that adds value to the activity. In this way, the use of technology is just like any tool. I am a huge fan of Alice Keeler (Ed Tech guru) who consistently asks the question does technology make the experience better for the student? If the answer is no, then upgrade the activity. There are simply way too many teachers out there that assume tech in all cases adds value and it isn’t the case. Without strong pedagogy you have nothing.

The best example of this I can think of is my own school, which went 1-1 this year with chrome books. During the first two weeks, we had some trouble with the vendor and getting the books in the hands of the students. I had a teacher who was livid, claiming “he could not teach without technology.” My response was, “you shouldn’t be proud of admitting that.” What it says is the technology teaches for you and that is not what technology in the classroom is for. He went on say he doesn’t want to be one of those teachers who “just gives out boring worksheets in class”. I, of course, explained you don’t have to be and all the ways one can do engaging activities without a 1-1 classroom. However, when I did a review of the activities he was doing I had to ask the question in each case, how does this activity upgrade the learning experience? What I discovered was the activities he was doing were essentially online worksheets. The only value they added was they were paperless, yet it was assumed this was best practice.

To me technology needs to support inquiry and higher level thinking. It needs to provide options for students to express and create. It must go beyond simply automating tasks or mundane flashiness. Technology always has to be a tool in the hands of critical thinkers. The tool is necessary often but the one wielding the tool is always the most important.

4 comments

  1. Ryan,

    I feel the same way about tech use in medical education. We replaced the blackboard with a projector (and used transparencies), which then turned into powerpoint, and now we are vodcasting. But basically, there is NO VALUE ADDED, except that students no longer need to physically
    attend lectures. Of course, there are other instructors that are using technology in innovative ways, but the vast majority are not. I am surprised that there isn’t some review process whereby each instructor is assessed and given feedback regarding their teaching methods (and appropriate use of digital technology), especially if the school is investing money into purchasing chrome books for every student.

  2. You make some valid points, Ryan. I like that you ask the question “How does the activity upgrade the learning experience?” It is often an overlooked component when designing activities, projects and tests. I also agree with you that often there are teachers who get a handle on new technology, and they think they will automatically become better, more effective teachers. They may appear more engaging, but if it’s simply online worksheets they’re using the technology for, it is definitely not an upgrade to the learning that is going on.

  3. I agree that critically reflecting on the value technology adds is essential. Educators need to consider the environments they are creating and seek to promote balance for their students. Technology does not enhance many valuable experiences and various ways of constructing and representing knowledge should be incorporated.

  4. Thank you momoe, Jocelynn, and Derek,

    It is a constant battle I find. I am a huge Ed tech advocate but like anything, we need to evaluate our practice. The magic bullet fallacy is very much alive and well when it comes to educational technology. I have yet to find anything that takes away the importance of the teacher and his/her expertise.

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