“My students need technology to learn.” “If I didn’t have laptops in my classroom my students wouldn’t learn as well.” These statements reflect a growing idea in education that students of the 21st century should be taught differently than students from previous decades. Specifically, that due to the influx of technology use in everyday life, the way students learn has changed. Unfortunately for those with this belief, there isn’t any research to support these claims. What does that mean for technology in the classroom? Should I relinquish the use of computers and devices with students? Do I need to rethink my teaching philosophy and my decision to pursue a Master’s degree in Educational Technology?
Perhaps I need to pull back on the reins a little bit. First of all, I am still very satisfied with my decision to get my Master’s degree in a technology related field. Secondly, use of technology in education isn’t wrong. It needs to be seen as another tool and teaching strategy an educator can use in the classroom. Any extreme in education can lead to disengaged and unsuccessful students. 30 straight days of lecture might not be the best teaching practice. 30 days of watching “flipped” videos might not be the best teaching practice either. I would argue that both of those models are not good teaching practices. Finding a balance that works for you and your students is what’s important.
Have students changed due to the amount of technology they use in their daily lives? As a classroom teacher I can honestly say I have no idea. I’ve only been teaching for four years so my experience in the classroom is with students who have had this technology in their lives. For a teacher of 25 years, 30 years, or 40 years, I’m sure they see a change in how students act in their classrooms. They would probably say that students learn differently, too. My dad, a high school teacher of 25 years, says, “I’m not sure students learning has change because of technology, but they sure do have shorter attention spans. I almost have to perform a show to keep their attention.” Is he right? Is he romanticizing the past with his statement about shorter attention spans? Maybe nothing has changed and he just thinks it has. He doesn’t have any research to back him up. He simply has years and years of experience and a strong feeling about what he sees in his students. His experience doesn’t qualify as research, but that doesn’t mean his experience doesn’t count for something.
According to studies, the learner in the classroom has not changed as a result of technology. However, it is still my job as an educator to engage my students the best I can. Do I have to use technology to engage my students? Do I use technology in every lesson of every unit? No I don’t. I choose to use technology, when appropriate, to engage my students because I believe they will be more successful in my class and their lives in the real world as a result. The way students learn might not have changed, but the world they are living in certainly has. Technology can be (and should be) used to prepare them for that world.