In The Australian newspaper, Natasha Bita reports John Vallance’s view on technology in classrooms as a “scandalous waste”, a distraction, and does little “except enrich Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard and Apple” (thank-you Steph for sharing this article). His school prohibits students to bring their laptops to school to encourage uninhibited group discussions in the classroom, a move which is underpinned by the belief that “teaching is fundamentally social activity”.
Yes, school is a place where brains and brawn are developed – in fact I can’t agree any more strongly that talk and discussion is vital to the growth of learners. And yes, it’s true, students can’t write legibly, they play on their computers alone during recess, and their attention spans are virtually non existent. So I do agree that it is alarming that the Australian Curriculum is migrating its NAPLAN tests to the computer.
However, as much as I agree with this article, I think I hold some bias (as many others do) coming from a cohort who graduated just one year ahead of those students introduced to their own independent laptops for use in and outside of class. And I don’t believe it’s any coincidence that students have a lesser attention span, can’t spell, and write slower.
While I admire the passion and value Vallance has for teachers; “If I had a choice between filling a classroom with laptops or hiring another teacher, I’d take the other teacher every day of the week’’, the claim that teachers use technology to create the “illusion of having prepared a lesson” is a strong assumption. Personally, I think there is a growing emphasis on teachers facilitating learning and equipping them with the skills to use the tools around them more effectively. So, just because a teacher asks students to complete some research on the computer for a lesson or two does not mean they are “slacking off”. Might I add how important it is for students to be able to research and differentiate between reliable and unreliable information (the common-sense list goes on…). Our schools place so much significance on building independent long life learners – and well, computers and technology is a huge part of it.
Regardless, it probably isn’t all that constructive to criticise the use of technology in the classroom. We all know that technology is prevalent in all parts of society and the engagement (or disengagement) it does in fact bring is inevitable. And we certainly know that technology is here and here to stay.
Perhaps the kind of conversation we should be having is how to educate teachers to use technology in the classroom in meaningful ways that enhance learning, encourage innovation and creativity, so that we can eliminate one edge of the sword.