Amateur thoughts on educational technology

January 4, 2012

Here I am, creating my first blog on a subject I don’t yet know anything about!  I’m super excited for this course in Educational Technology, although I am a little on the fence with my opinions of the role of technology in general.  I might even call myself a hippocrate in this regard – I own an Iphone, Mac, Smart TV, Kobo, digital camera, and many more little gadgets, yet I promote the idea of “unplugging” and I cringe when I read statistics about how many hours we spend with digital media.  Where did I read those statistics? Probably on my Mac, or in the news which I read or watched on my Iphone.  My point exactly.

I think I sometimes fall for the romantic notion of children (and adults as well) having more vibrant and meaningful life experiences when they have them face to face – or better yet, outdoors.  However it seems that recent advances in technology are making many digital experiences at least equally fulfilling as “organic” experiences.  An example that comes to mind is one of my favourites, Skype.  Being able to see and speak regularly with my god-daughter in Brazil is equally fulfilling as would be only seeing her once every year!

In my studies last semester I researched the Waldorf philosophy of educating, knowing that some of this philosophy is aligned with my thoughts.  I was shocked to discover that Waldorf schools do not have ANY form of technology in the classroom through Grade 8.  They believe that technology suffocates imagination and creativity.  They use former students who have gone on to become successful software engineers as proof that technology is not necessary for the elementary grades.  For another study I did, I read “Last Child in the Woods” by Richard Louv (highly recommended reading).  In his book he cites a study that found little, if any, connection between technology and learning.  Huh.  I’d like to look into this assertion further to identify which educational technology they were studying.

The reality is that the problem isn’t digital media itself, but the balance – or lack thereof – we practice in using it.  It isn’t advantageous to do too much of any one thing, even if that thing is exercise (burn out, pulled muscles) or reading (strained eyes, lack of socializing).  Another argument is that we shouldn’t rely on technology for everything, we should know how to function without it if necessary.  Why??  How about a massive power outage, natural disaster, or just simply to remain human and not evolve into robots?!

So I guess I’m not really on the fence anymore.  I can see blogging, website building, internet research and networking as being crucial skills for every student to learn.  But don’t think I will stop promoting more eye contact, more outdoor learning, and less mindless digital entertainment.

 

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2 Responses to “Amateur thoughts on educational technology”

  1. edci336nrake Says:

    It’s like you read my mind. I agree with every bit of this. There are good and bad things about using all this technology. Especially when you mentioned natural disasters and power outages. Are people going to be able to cope? I know people that wouldn’t know what to do with themselves if they couldn’t use their laptop or TV. It’s sad, really. Especially when students don’t know how to play outside anymore, using their imaginations. What did we really need when we were kids? We didn’t need game consoles or anything like that. How about chalk or a skipping rope or a stick and we’ll figure out how we can use it! But I suppose we can’t avoid technology anymore. Kids are using it more than we are, and we should be familiar with how they’re using it and what we are able to do. This impersonal communication is really bothering me, however. For example, instead of leaving this comment, I could’ve swiveled my chair around and told you to your pretty face!

    • jwindle Says:

      Ah! Glad to know that you share my views on this Nadine, you should totally read “Last Child in the Woods” I think you’d really enjoy it. They have it at the public library. I guess we will have to “model” to our students how to find balance, and alternative options for entertainment. Its one thing if the technology is being used in the way we are learning to use it in the classroom, but using it as a substitute for good old imaginative play (indoors or out) is a big problem in my eyes.
      Haha how ironic to be ranting about technology and blogging to one another from the same room 😉


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