Does contemporary learning require a large or larger role for laptops and other digital tools in the classroom and what are the pros and cons?
Instructional technologist Sam Morris takes a light-hearted look at teaching paperless in this "I Hate Paper" video, but the message is interesting... If more students had laptops, then what could we do electronically that we currently do on paper?
Professor Michael Wesch's "The Machine is Using Us" shows how the nature of text, and our interaction with it, has changed in the digital era.
So... back to the question... Does contemporary learning require a large or larger role for laptops and other digital tools in the classroom and what are the pros and cons?
Even in the Wood Studio, I find the laptop a very powerful tool. Students find Google images, and search numerous artist's web sites. It seems only the tip of the iceberg. On the down side, the computer can suck up a great deal of time. To some extent, it is passive, and the role of the studio is to make the student the agent of change and creation.
Over the summer I visited many art museums where I observed children clustered around interactive smart tables. It was striking that none of the children exhibited any interest in viewing the actual paintings. Occasionally, adults would drag a child away and approach a painting-only to form a tableau for a family photo with Picasso or Van Gogh-and nary a glance at the actual work.Technology is changing the way we look at art and the way we approach art. How wonderful that we now have a virtual way of visiting the museums of the world, even being able to zoom in on the texture of a painting. However, our society is losing the ability to experience the visceral connection formed by the experience of lingering over the texture, brush strokes and color of an actual work. The speed of access that technology affords us is causing us to slowly lose the luxury of lingering- and the insights it brings. I am concerned about what effect "speed of access" is having on developing brains, and our ability to form thoughtful judgements. In the past few years of teaching art to 4 & 5 year old children, I have noticed an increase of developmental lags in both fine motor and spatial perception. I can only assume that these lags might be attributed a child's close proximity to a computer screen and the frequent use of a mouse. Frequency of exposure of a child to technology is a finely tuned process and it is our duty as teachers and parents to provide a balance. I feel that in the realm of art, technology is best suited as a research tool for teachers-a child's experience should be hand's on-a tactile experience benefits all learning styles and all ages. I also prefer displaying the children's actual work throughout the school to digital displays. I guess I love paper, Sam Morris...
Thank you all for the interesting thoughts on this topic! I have really enjoyed reading these replies, and considering the pros and cons of technology in the classroom. I am excited to have a Smartboard available in my classroom next year, and I'm looking forward to learn more about how I can use it to review and mark-up reading passages and primary source documents with my students. As Eric noted, I'm also fascinated by the possibilities of students using ebooks to share their thoughts and analysis of assigned readings. What a great way for students to collaborate outside of the classroom.
There is definitely a reason to be wary of the technology, and when students use laptops in my class I often find myself peering over the screen to make sure they remain focused on the lesson. I also believe it is essential for students to learn how to complete research using primary and secondary sources. Websites may include inaccurate or incomplete information, and I have had many discussions with students about being wary of information posted on the internet.
I agree that there is definitely great potential for the use of laptops and other technology in the classroom. Yet decisions must be made with care, and technology should not just be incorporated because it exists, but because it adds real value to the learning experience.
Laptops can definitely be a problem in the classroom if students use them for purposes other than classwork. However there are technologies out there that can display the screen contents of each student's laptop on the teacher's computer in the front of the class. This not only helps monitor proper usage but allows the teacher to assess where everyone is on an assignment, and can help focus our attention on those that need it most.
Speaking from the perspective of a math teacher, I've found technology to be an invaluable tool. Whether it's using Geometer's Sketchpad to visually display concepts or the TI calculator and/or PC to run statistical analyses, technology has made learning difficult topics much easier. I'm looking forward to teaching Geometry in a classroom this year that's equipped with Mac's. I'll be regularly incorporating student-centered, hands-on Sketchpad explorations for the first time and am excited about the possibilities.
That's fascinating, Maria, that the children are more interested in the smart board display than in the art.
I think using an ActivBoard in my classroom is useful in many ways with the young children - just as a way to center them - they look at it when they come in to the room! And I think that it's useful to try to translate music into visuals, which even the little ones can do on the board. Looking at what they did later on doesn't necessarily remind them about the sound that motivated the visual gesture, however. I find the board a challenge in terms of software that means taking turns, but very useful for listening to music, looking at performers. We can hear concerts in real time or save them for later. We can watch our own performances. And kids can manipulate things that are set up by the teacher - but one at a time, and the prep time is huge. Professional Development helps, but I could use a lot more time for exploring the possibilities of this technological tool. Nothing speaks to children better than experience. In my class that means challenging their bodies in movement, challenging their voices to sing, challenging their brains to remember a pattern to play on an instrument, or to create a melody. If they see this reflected through some kind of technology, then their experience is reinforced. Movement can control WII, singing can be recorded, patterns can be created on digital instruments, or on-screen versions of instruments with sounds that are very close to acoustical instruments. So in the absence of real instruments, this can be great. But if there's a real cello, or drum, or any instrument, in the room, and a person who is skilled on the instrument - nothing on the screen can compare. It has to do with the five senses, and I'm not surprised to hear Maria say that she's noticed developmental lag. You can feel the vibrations of the instruments, you can feel the muscles moving as you jump to the beat of music, you can feel the sensation in the fingers when you play a beat on a tambourine, you can feel the vibrations in your body when you sing. And the body has a memory for what it feels. So yes - technology is helpful, especially in the absence of certain musical experiences. And our students are definitely digital natives, not wanting to be left behind in a world where digital communication is a rapidly expanding reality. I think we need to provide a bit of everything, and I'm excited to work with my colleagues to determine great ways to do that.
I love paper too. Sometimes I wonder if my reticence to climb aboard the technology wagon is purely an expression of loyalty to an era that is now over. Other times, I feel more justified in my wariness of the speed with which the transition has taken place...
But the balanced perspective usually strikes me as the best, so I'll join the cohort who have said they agree with Anthony's list of pros and cons. Maybe, having read Maria's post, we should add "loss of tactile experience with and of a tactile world" to the list of cons. And then, as an institution, perhaps we can just compensate for that "con" of the technology we embrace by retaining a few tried-and-true methods from our past -- including (call me old-fashioned, but) paper and pencil?
I loved reading all of your thoughts about this fascinating topic. Thank you for sharing! A larger role for technology in the classroom is a no-brainer to me. Today’s students are much more technologically savvy and if we do not strive to incorporate meaningful digital tools into our lessons we could be missing out on a number of ways to connect in a new and powerful way with our students. I agree with ChristinaDR that “technology should be used in a meaningful way and not just used for the sake of technology.” Teacher’s need to have an open mind, discovery time, resources and training to be able to find digital tools that enhance learning.
Technology playing a larger role in the classroom shouldn’t be viewed as a threat to eliminating the importance of human interaction and physical learning, but as a tool that can bring sometimes boring information to life for many students. In addition, give students that may otherwise not have the resources at home learn how to use it. Debbie made an excellent point that technology “can’t replace the human element in making music,” but it can show students so much more about music than a book can in a classroom. And possibly help those not interested in music learn to appreciate its diversity.
I share similar views with Anthony’s list of pro’s and con’s. In addition, technology and digital tools can help one in becoming more efficient. On the flip side, I am concerned that technology and its maintenance is too expensive and evolving too quickly to keep up. Training teachers to be one step ahead or even at the same step as today’s digital natives takes time that isn’t always available. Online safety is yet another concern.
More technology requires teacher’s to be knowledgeable about how to help students navigate through endless information and make sense of the world around them, learn how to protect themselves from harm, inappropriate material or scams, learn appropriate ways to communicate on-line, learn ways to stay focused, and to teach students that it is ok to disconnect and take time away from constant stimulation.
Before taking the step forward to implementing more technology, BB&N needs time to come up with a budgetary plan for new digital tools, maintenance, replacement, and PD. In addition, teachers need room for trail and error –learning lessons from technology projects or digital tools that did not work.
This is an exciting time for BB&N. There are so many opportunities by adding more technology. I have already seen many different ways teachers at BB&N use technology and it’s inspiring! I can’t wait to see and learn more from my colleagues.
I am happy to be part of this conversation, particularly as I join the BB&N community in the mist of discussion on such an important topic. I am curious about the implications of technology in the classroom and about the ways in which our students learn, interact, and connect using it. My goal in incorporating technology is two-fold; I believe we, as educators, have a responsibility to meet our students where they are. We are charged with teaching students the crux of our discipline in a framework that enables them to find success. As the manner in which this knowledge is presented and shared changes, so does the way ours students synthesize and apply it. I believe that we must leave room to explore the uses of technology in the classroom so we can best serve this generation of student. What, exactly, this looks like is uncertain, but I am eager to continue thinking and talking about this topic moving forward. I also believe that the use of technology ought to make what we do in the classroom with our students easier, not more difficult. Of course there are always bumps in the road when learning and incorporating something new, but this aside, the use of technology should enable us to facilitate learning in more meaningful ways. There is much to think about, discuss, learn, and explore on this front. I am looking forward to getting to know how teachers at BB&N are using technology currently and to thinking creatively about the ways in which education is changing and/or not changing due to advances in the digital world.
I'm coming in late in the game on this discussion and some of what I'd wanted to write has been written. As someone that trumpets the use of technology in the middle school, I have come to learn more about the potential and limitations of it over the last four years, particularly on our campus. We are pretty evenly split between those that embrace the use of technology in the classroom and those that prefer more tried and tested (paper) methods. So that begs the question about how much technology we can mandate in teaching (none) and therefore how much that second group of teachers should be pushed to use even the most basic technology. But this group forum is about the devices themselves, so I will try to direct my comment towards that.
I've had the pleasure of "owning" an iPad for the summer (thanks BB&N). I've discovered that, though there is a lot of excitement about this kind of device that it is still in its infancy. I'm imagining what an iPad or Android tablet will look like in 5...10 years and wondering how much the school should invest itself in gobbling up (and paying for) lots of these now in 2011. I think back to the first smartphone my sister had from T-Mobile back in 2002 and the latest smartphones and they don't even compare. And that's just nine years ago. The tablet should have a permanent place in the BB&N classroom but I have to caution that the best (as in a much better device) is still to come. The day will come when the iPad and real personal computer processing speed and power will merge – but we are not at the day yet. I think we should wait for that day and then go all in. At the moment, you can own a personal computer and not an iPad but you can’t have it the other way around.
Also - I'd love to discuss the use of "clouds" and our school as the future sees it. I'm a bit torn about the use of a storage cloud for personal reasons. First of all, I like to have my data nearby and accessible even with a wifi outage. I have plenty of storage on my home computers for video, photos and music, which eat up huge amounts of data space. Clouds are clever things because they force you to pay a monthly subscription fee to host your data. You have the convenience of accessing your data from anywhere, but Apple and Cisco will make more money from you for the privilege. With all things cool these days, Apple seems to be forcing our hand on the use of cloud technology. They have designed their iPad to almost be exclusively cloud based, with no USB ports (or other ports besides the 30 pin). I’ve been frustrated by this fact over the summer because I still refuse to subscribe to a cloud service like Mobileme. But I can see a possibility for cloud use in the classroom. Students are losing their memory sticks at the middle school like it’s their job. Additionally, they often save files on computers locally, which gives them a problem during class time and study hall. In any case, I’d love to discuss whether or not people think storage clouds for student use are worth the money…