Technology plays a very important role in the lives of students today and in their educational journey, but is it truly helping their learning? What steps can be taken to ensure it is a tool for teachers and learning and not a babysitter, or even an obstacle to learning?
In the third Chapter of Noddings' fourth edition of Philosophy of Education (2016) entitled Analytic Philosophy, Noddings explores a variety of educational philosophies and how education and the acts of teaching and learning are viewed.
In 1933, John Dewey said teaching can be compared to selling commodities and there is the same relationship between teaching and learning as there is between selling and buying an item, with two people involved in the process (p. 48).
Nodding said that teaching can be viewed as a job, giving out information like another person sells items, but there is so much more involved in the process (p. 47).
In 1960, Israel Scheffler’s Language of Education, said that teaching does not always imply learning and with B. Smith, Scheffler outlined - three criteria of teaching: The teacher intends to bring about learning; teaching strategies must be reasonably thought to be likely to achieve the desired learning; and what the teacher does must fall under certain restrictions of manner (Noddings, p. 49).
Through the use of technology, is this type of teaching happening? Is there an exchange of information between teacher and student? Does the teaching intend to bring about learning, using effective teaching strategies that are deemed appropriate for use in the classroom?
Dewey (Noddings, p49) said the only way to increase the learning of pupils was to improve the quantity and quality of real teaching. Dewey believed that learning is something that the pupil has to do himself and for himself. The initiative has to lie with the learner, with the teacher serving the role of the guide and director who he steers the boat. While the teacher provides the guidance, the energy that propels the learning must come from the student. The teacher can help foster that energy by learning about and incorporating into the lessons, the interests of the students.
One would think that the use of technology in the classroom, as part of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) education initiatives, would help to motivate the students and inspire them as teachers guide them during their learning journey. However, while technology is used extensively in classrooms today, it does not always mean that it is used effectively. Writer, Naomi Buck, told the story, in the May 18, 2018 edition of the Globe and Mail, of her son being labelled “the Nazi” by his Grade 4 classmates at his Toronto school, due to his German heritage. His peers had started to call him this name after they had been able to access inappropriate videos during free time in their classroom.
When children are effectively introduced to STEAM activities, and given opportunities to explore technology at a young age, there tends to be less gender-based stereotypes and fewer obstacles regarding participation in these types of activities (Kazakoff et al., 2013). Buck also mentioned that the stated goal of using technology in the classroom was to develop communication and collaboration skills and to foster deep learning, but these positive developments don’t happen if the teacher is not using the tools properly.
In Buck’s case, her child’s teacher was not supervising and guiding the students while they watched the videos, rather the students described that he was often on or his phone, while they accessed inappropriate content.
The World Health Organization has gone as far to recognize overuse of technology through video game addiction as an official illness. Gaming disorder is “characterized by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.” This new classification will come into effect in 2022, so it is clear that teachers must closely monitor and guide students to ensure technology tools are being used effectively during the learning process. Some leaders in the tech industry have chosen to put their children in Waldorf schools, which limit the use of technology and have spoken out against the great deal of time young people spend on smartphones and social networks in their lives. Gee and Esteban-Guitart, 2019, p. 9)
As Buck pointed Students using the internet require more, not less, supervision, to help them discern reliable from unreliable sources, and to steer them away from its "very dark corners.”
When faced with the new emphasis on the use of technology and STEAM education in the primary grades, teachers often feel intimidated, lack self-efficacy, and react negatively to these concepts, due to a lack of training and exposure (Jamil, Linder and Stegelin, 2018). Some teachers don’t know how to use the tools effectively and instead let the students explore the tools on their own, without adequate supervision and guidance.
Matt Miles, an author and high school teacher from Virginia said that misuse of technology in the classroom is not a surprising development. “We’re told to be ‘guides on the side,’” Mr. Miles says. “To allow kids to work on devices alone and at their own pace. You can’t trust kids to use these incredibly entertaining and addictive tools for educational purposes.
Mathew Johnson, the director of education for in Ottawa, said in Buck’s article that the problem is a lack of support for teachers. “If there’s one thing teachers and parents agree on, it’s that teachers need more support integrating technology in the classroom,” Johnson said the level of expertise and use of technology in the classroom remains shallow.
From Buck’s perspective, the use of technology in the classroom does not have a consistently positive impact on students throughout our school systems because how the technology is used in the classroom, depends a great deal on the expertise level of the teacher.
This is where we must not be afraid of technology, with proper training, adequate supervision and the development of student responsibility, technology can be an excellent learning tool in the classroom.
DeJarnette (2018) found that teachers need to participate in hands-on STEAM training for it to be effective and help teacher confidence, in all areas, including technology. Through effective professional development sessions, teacher confidence and familiarity with technology tools can greatly improve.
Gee (2019) believes that we must use technology to help foster deep students to have clear goals, which require actions that the learner emotionally cares about. When using technology, the learning must feel that what is being created is helpful to them and assists in illuminating information about a cause that is important to them. Gee also believes it is important that technology is used to encourage students to try different things and to see failure as an important form of learning. Finally, the technology tools they are using and creating need to help the students discover the appropriate values and judgments they can use to assess their progress through various tries, retries, and failures.
If we commit to adequately supervise the use of technology in the classroom, while using technology tools to help students explore their interests and create projects that can have a positive impact on others, then meaningful learning can occur.
Nodding said (p. 52) that if a teacher is going to ensure learning, they must avoid teaching the same way, if there is evidence that the student is not learning. The teacher must revise their methods to help the student on his or her learning journey, and innovative use of technology, through the exploration of content and delivery of timely feedback can help teachers do just that.
Finally, C.J.B. Macmillan and James Garrison said (p. 56) to teach someone something is to answer the questions a person has about a subject. Through the effective use of technology in the classroom, teachers can eliminate barriers to learning, such as difficulties with reading or writing output, allowing them easier access to information that will answer their questions. Also, through the use of technology, teachers can guide their students through their learning journey and they can answer these important questions and make innovative discoveries through the use of technology.
Proper use of technology and digital tools can definitely lead to high quality teaching and deep learning opportunities for the students.
Buck, N. A hard lesson: The digital classroom can really fail. The Globe and Mail, May 18, 2018. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-a-hard-lesson-the-digital-classroom-can-really-fail/
DeJarnette, N. K. (2018). Implementing STEAM in the Early Childhood Classroom. European Journal of STEM Education, 33), Article 18, 1-9.
Gee, J-P., Esteban-Guitart, M. 2019) Designing for Deep Learning in the Context of Digital and Social Media. Media Education Research Journal, 2758), 9-17.
Hogg ins, T. World Health adopts 'gaming addiction' as official illness despite industry opposition. The Telegraph, May 28, 2019. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/gaming/news/world-health-organisation-adopts-gaming-addiction-official-illness/
Jamil, F. M., Linder, S. M. , D. A. (2018). Early childhood teacher beliefs about STEAM education after a professional development conference. Early Childhood Education Journal, 464), 409-417.
Kazak off, E., Sullivan, A. (2013). The effect of a classroom-based intensive robotics and programming workshop on sequencing ability in early childhood. Early Childhood Education Journal, 414), 245- 255.
Noddings, N. Philosophy of Education, 4th Routledge, 2016)