Monday, September 9, 2013

Tech Research Report

The three articles I read for this assignment covered school-provided laptops in the classroom, the ways teenagers use their mobile devices, and how effective teachers think technology works to improve learning.

The article, "How Teachers Are Feeling About Education Technology" confirmed that most teachers surveyed believed that technology can be an asset in the classroom and helps engage kids in learning. However the article avoided controversy by also providing statistics that showed that a majority of teachers also thought that traditional textbooks and additional readings were useful. None of the questions seemed to ask what I was expecting: "Is technology superior to traditional reading material?" I think that it would have been extremely interesting to see how teachers answered that question. However this slight avoidance of the issue reminded me of another article, "One Laptop per Child Program" which stated that having technology was not a guarantee that learning would take place. The author argued that technology is beneficial only when used wisely and in relation to the curriculum. Technology for its own sake does not help kids learn content, only how to compute and use technology (which is its own skill, but perhaps not the focus of 10th grade Social Studies). Additionally the article pointed out that many of the schools that took part in this program did not even have internet access, preventing students from experiencing many of the benefits of technology in the classroom such as: research projects, access to online videos and instructional material, etc.

The final article I looked at was "Digital Lives of Teens: Mobile is Now." This article really hit home for me as last spring I was a substitute teacher. It is absolutely amazing (and kind of scary) how many kids have phones in school and at what age they are given those phones. Once when I was subbing for a 5th grade class, the students were to use the class set of iPads to research Leonardo da Vinci. Immediately a number of students -bored from waiting for approximately 25 seconds- asked if they could use their iPhones instead. I hesitantly replied yes, and about a dozen of the kids whipped out smart phones. I could not believe it. Those kids were ten years old. So when talking about teenagers, it doesn't surprise me that they have access to and want to use their mobile devices as much as possible. The author proposes that classwork on class-set iPads or computers would prevent students from being distracted by social media. However the author already pointed out that these mobile devices are small and easy to hide. I think that the strongest deterrent to using phones in school is to have an engaging lesson that requires full attention and participation (whether that involves, speaking, active listening, group work, etc.) and a teacher who pays attention. I think that students will pull out the phones when they are bored and given mere busy work.

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