Technology: Two Ideas to Move From Enduring It to Employing It
It’s a complaint we hear from both teachers and parents today: the kids are getting lost in technology. Once they start a video game, they wander into another state of mind. Once they peer at their smart phone screen, they get lost gazing at the glow. Many educators question whether technology has made education more difficult. Maybe it’s the enemy.
Maybe… but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, it can be a dear friend.
When it comes to technology, leaders/educators live in one of three camps:
- Endure it – They feel uncomfortable and wish it would go away.
- Enjoy it – They love new gadgets, but to them it’s all entertainment.
- Employ it – They not only embrace it, but use it to reach their goals.
Susanne Lajoie, from the Department of Educational and Counseling Psychology lives in Camp #3. She wants to harness kid’s absorption with technology and use it to improve the way students learn. She believes we can employ it in the process.
Lajoie is the Director of a newly funded “Learning Environments Across Disciplines” (LEADS) project in Canada. They bring together an international group of experts ranging from educators, to computer scientists, to psychologists, to physicians to historians to explore how to best harness digital technology to enhance the learning process, not only across disciplines but across ages, from kindergarten to college.
What I love about this is that educators are finally seeing that just like TV in the 1960s, technology is not evil, it is a neutral tool that we can harness to do good and to educate (Just watch an episode of Sesame Street, or Blues Clues). What captures Susanne’s imagination is not technology but how to redeem it.
“Far too often, sweeping statements are made about how technology can lead to improvements in classrooms and learning in general,” says Lajoie. “To my mind technology is a tool, a means to an end. It can be designed to amplify and enhance what learners understand, but only by introducing new cognitive learning tools…”
Researchers from the LEADS project will use a wide range of technology including video cameras, computers, smart phones, tablets and shared whiteboards to create learning environments where they can assess students as they interact with technology. The research runs the gamut from filming elementary school kids at play to see how they reach consensus, to creating serious video games to teach high school kids history, and even developing online diagnostic aids for medical students.
The Bottom Line for You and Me?
Keep your eye on the big picture. When we feel uncomfortable with new technology, we must remember that “tech” is only a method, a means to an end. Don’t sweat it. Technological advances will come and go.
Find out what’s working. When we see students disengage with our teaching style, look around them and see what does engage them. Then ask: is there any way you can employ that method in your pedagogy?