Response – Technology forces new demands on education

In response to – http://www.vancouversun.com/news/Technology+forces+demands+education/8846696/story.html

I appreciate Martin Laba’s summary of the situation. “Universities need to advance teaching and learning practices that can push out the boundaries of the classroom and promote a more kinetic and participatory learning environment.”

Martin rebutts the media hype of banning laptops and agreeing with the researchers that express the “need for new teaching practices that could integrate new technologies to enrich the learning experience of students.”

The research referred to received media hype like “why laptops don’t belong in lectures,” or “laptops lower student grades,” even though that is not the intention of the researchers.

As part of the research,

    Students with laptops who were instructed to do other non-related tasks during lectures (to “mimic” typical student browsing during lectures), and other students sitting near those with laptops scored lower in quizzes administered after the lectures. Their “immediate learning,” or simply, their recall of content delivered, didn’t measure up.

The research makes a couple of assumptions.

    Students working on laptops during a lecture are doing ‘non-related’ tasks. I don’t doubt that some students will be off task in any lecture. Obviously their learning will be diminished and possibly those around them.
    What a professor might see as off task is either dealing with something to clear their mind and be able to focus, or perhaps looking up a term, reference, youtube on the ‘lecture’ topic.

I realize recall is easy to measure; however, it is also the lowest form of thinking and not necessarily an indicator of learning. Recall was also a measurement of of the ‘content delivered.’ Content delivery could be a website rather than a person saying the same thing. Learning is not about content delivery; it is about making meaning and being able to apply the meaning. I know the BC ministry of Education is shifting to less learning outcomes to allow deeper meaningful interaction with content.

“The traditional classroom has always been an enclosure of sorts, where the delivery is unidirectional and the relationship with the instructor transactional.” While studying in university for my my bachelors degree, only 1 of more than 30+ courses were not ‘traditional’ lecture style. It appears that most post secondary still follows the lecture model; however, the Professional Development Programs and Post Baccalaureate programs have pushed the envelope toward inquiry and project based learning. I believe that at least 80% of elementary and 50% of secondary classrooms do not use traditional lecture as the main teaching style.

I think the most telling quote of potential reality that we send our K-12 graduates to endure in University is: “Technologically promiscuous students cause considerable anxiety, if not insult in certain quarters of the professoriate, prompting some instructors to invoke a prohibition on the uses of laptops and hand-held devices in the classroom in the hopes that a tech moratorium will force attentiveness and create a deeper engagement with course content.”

It continues to amaze me that the idea of removing anything more interesting than the learning in the classroom would ‘force attentiveness.’ If students aren’t engaged in the learning, punishing or removing choices won’t change engagement.

Disengaged learners could be that way due to a number of factors:

    Background knowledge to draw connections and relate to
    Relevance (perceived or actual), A hook or reason to be interested
    Physical disconnection – hunger, too hot, too dark, background noise
    Emotional disconnection – home / life situation, desire to learn
    Disconnected teacher – If the teacher /professor has not connected as a person with something valuable to share, why listen for 55 minutes to them drone on.
    Ineffective presentation of media
    Material not presented to differentiated learning styles
    Learning challenges

While it is a challenge, each teacher should be expected attempt to provide the best possible opportunity for students to learn. As K-12 teachers, we do face barriers such as space restrictions, limited resources and funds, large classes, changing curriculum. We may not be able to provide the best possible learning situations; however, we need to continually move in that direction.

I know that change is slow and often takes some extra work;however, managing a classroom where students are engaged in learning is much easier than managing behaviour where they are not.

Teachers accept learners learn in a variety of ways and we have to offer learning in a variety of ways (not just teach in a variety of ways). If we stick to traditional teaching (as opposed to co-learning), we create artificial limits on learning.

Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/news/Technology+forces+demands+education/8846696/story.html

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