Sunday, January 24, 2010

Is Technology the Most Efficient Way?

My husband just bought a new truck. He's really proud of all the bells and whistles. There are read-outs to tell him how much gas he has left, what the oil is up to, and which way he's going. I told him that while all the technology in automobiles today is impressive, gone are the days your Uncle Floyd can walk over with a screwdriver and fix your car in your own driveway. Technology like this requires a more sophisticated means of repair. My mother used to say that Daddy could hold an entire car engine in place with electrical tape. That wouldn't work now.

Last week I visited a school that had more technology than I've ever seen. Recipients of a grant, the teachers all had document cameras (that looked like reading lamps) in their classrooms. There were interactive white boards and hand-held touch devices meant to make learning fun. I observed as students plugged headsets into the devices and watched and listened to podcasts about World War II.

I wondered who loaded all of those little movies onto the devices. And I thought that it would have been just as easy, and a great deal faster, for the class to watch the movie on the whiteboard...just pull it up on the computer and project it. There would be no need to take the time required to load the movies, pass out headsets, and wait for individual students to finish the same movie. A teacher could even pause the clip at different intervals and elicit classroom discussion.

I don't know - call me a fuddy-duddy, but as impressive as technology is...is it always the best means of instruction? I saw 30 kids sit like zombies and watch their own personal movies. Sure, there was no misbehaving and no talking. But the room was dark and the students (and this observer) seemed sleepy.

And what about the three hours it took me to develop a compelling PowerPoint lesson on writing a couple of years ago? I kept thinking that I could've written the same information on the board in about five minutes.

So I have to ask, is the use of technology, with all its bells and whistles, always the best way ?

6 comments:

Ian H. said...

I find it interesting that both you and Mrs Mimi both posted on this subject on the same day (http://itsnotallflowersandsausages.blogspot.com/2010/01/technology-shmechnology.html) - serendipity!

Anyway, I think technology is like any tool. People who've been properly trained in its use can do marvels with it, but the uneducated who pick one up can cause more harm than good.

That also holds true for deciding when to use a particular tool.

Raymond C Blanchett said...

Technology has a benefit for learning and students enjoying lessons more. I have used a range of technology in the classroom to all age children. Using interactive diagrams, mathematics, use of podcast has benefited visual learners more.

Younger students like to use the smart board, use of music and other hands on learning. Behaviour for learning has improved in other classes with new teachers.

isafroward said...

I agree that it is desirable for materials and technology to be up to date; however, this isn't always necessary for effective instruction. For example, some would argue that technology is not necessary for effective writing instruction. One college-level writing instructor explains:

I teach technical writing theory, methods and skills that remain constant regardless of whether the writer uses quill, typewriter, or computer. To me, the use of the computer is merely the writer’s choice of instrument (256).

One of my concerns is that as teachers and administrators evaluate curriculum, the evaluation remain objective regardless of whether the instructional method used to teach the curriculum is "new" or traditional.

Stelting, B. R. (2002, Summer). Conversations with technical writing teachers: Defining a problem. Technical Communication Quarterly. Retrieved September 12, 2009, from Academic Search Elite database (7515869).

isafroward said...

It is desirable for materials and technology to be up to date, this isn't always necessary for effective instruction. For example, some would argue that technology is not necessary for effective writing instruction. One college-level writing instructor explains:

I teach technical writing theory, methods and skills that remain constant regardless of whether the writer uses quill, typewriter, or computer. To me, the use of the computer is merely the writer’s choice of instrument. (p. 256)

One of my concerns is that as teachers and administrators evaluate curriculum, the evaluation remain objective regardless of whether the instructional method used to teach the curriculum is "new" or traditional.

Stelting, B. R. (2002, Summer). Conversations with technical writing teachers: Defining a problem. Technical Communication Quarterly. Retrieved September 12, 2009, from Academic Search Elite database (7515869).

Patrick Higgins said...

The example you gave falls squarely into the category of using a new tool to do an old practice. As we continue to figure out how teaching and new tools relate, we'll see more and more transformative uses of our tools, or, to put it differently: doing new things in new ways.

Happy to have found your writing.

picobarb said...

As a middle aged student back in college for the first time in over 30 years, I think technology is a wonderful tool for teachers that not only enhances subjects being taught in the classroom, but also encourages students to create, explore, basically learn how to learn. That is a skill set they will need in the 21st century.