Monday, March 20, 2017

Is Tech a 'Toy' or a 'Tool'?

I started thinking on this topic from one side and finished up on the other side.  I was looking at how if not engaged with properly, Technology in the classroom could easily become a distracting 'toy' as opposed to being an engaging 'tool'.  This seems like a statement of the obvious, when a piece of technology is used for entertainment how can it become a serious teaching and learning tool?

I think back to our first years of running a 1:1 Notebook program when we banned teachers from allowing Notebooks to be used to play games in classrooms.  The assumption was that a game would always be distracting from good teaching and learning.  Could we have been more wrong!  The engagement from educational 'games' has been widely documented.  A blanket statement about the good or bad for any particular part of the technology picture is very much like any generalisation and shouldn't be used to rule out anything.

As I thought through the best way to describe my thoughts about the 'toys' versus 'tools' arguments I was planning an argument around books and how they're used.  I then realised as I reflected upon my own school life and how I was learning with books as I grew up, I could easily make a good argument that even when used for non educational / recreational purposes learning is often enhanced.  The reading of non-educational material was key to my reading skills developing.  I was hardly ever engaged by the text books we had to read as part of the curriculum.  However, when I was reading 'Biggles' (Note 1)for days at a time over the holidays I was more engaged with reading than I would have been otherwise.  I wan't reading with a vision to become a pilot or aeronautical engineer it was purely enjoyment of the story.

Is there a similar effect from entertainment or even social networking on technology?  When students take home their particular piece of technology and then engage with the technology to meet their entertainment needs they are still learning something.

Can non educational use of technology be seen as enhancing the skills needed by students in the 21st century?  Of course it can, the non classroom use of technology which will allow our students to better engage with the opportunities and benefits delivered by technology.  The responsibility for making sure the classroom use of technology is su
pporting teaching and learning remains with the teacher, the same way teachers would have to ensure I was reading supplied texts and not my Biggles books whilst in the classroom.

Technology doesn't cause problems and can't fix them. When engagement with technology is well designed, classrooms are transformed and that will deliver amazing experiences for students.

(Note 1) - http://www.biggles.info/