EC&I 831 – Technology’s Role in Formal Education

Technology is a fantastic tool that can add exciting and innovative twists to the traditional way we have “done school” for the past number of decades, centuries or however dramatic you would like this point to be.  I believe most of us share in this belief as we have all signed up for a class intended to make us aware of and comfortable with the different tools and opportunities provided to us by the digital world.  Times are changing and with school closures, multi-grade classrooms, structural innovation, etc., we need to take a hard look at changing the way we operate.  Although it is frightening for many of our colleagues who are accustomed to a traditional method of pedagogy, the fact is that today’s learners have grown up with technology, are comfortable with technology, and as much as we may or may not agree with it, this is not likely to change any time soon.

I would offer that although there are enormous opportunities associated with incorporating technology into the educational landscape, we do need to employ an air of caution when approaching the subject.  It would be easy for us to jump on board and make this the new backbone of our educational system but once again, I believe it is a resource to add to our repertoire, not the be-all and end-all that we entrust our youth’s learning to.

Our government has outlined literacy and numeracy as the top priorities for our province’s educational system.  We have placed more and more of an emphasis on these areas and although some may argue that this is of the highest importance in preparing our students for the “real world” (post-secondary education/training and then on to the work force), I would suggest that we have lost sight of some of the more important factors in developing children.  By making more time for math and language arts classes, we have stripped our students of valuable time spent in health and physical education, art and music, practical and applied arts, second language classes, etc.  Although these options are available to our students, our timetabling creates an either/or type situation. Few of us would consider reading, writing and arithmetic to be time wasted, but wouldn’t we want to encourage development of the whole child?

At the risk of getting off task and onto a tangent of the true goal of education, I would say that we are not simply trying to churn out the next generation of workers and consumers, but the next generation of well rounded citizens.  Technology, in all of its forms, is a fantastic tool to be implemented in any number of different situations, but I fear that we will be quick to turn all of our attention to the new, sexy way of doing things and forget about the value of the human relationship.

Although some may disagree, I believe that one of the more important aspects of the educational system lies within the socialization of our young people.  Our youth need to learn how to work with others in a shared environment.  They need to learn how to share space and do things they may not find important, engaging or fun all the time as this is generally how the world operates.  Although I love my profession immensely, there are a large number of tasks that we are required to perform that some may find ineffectual and tedious but we do them and move on.  I would imagine that most professions are in the same boat.

I suppose I could sum up my hopes for technology’s role in the new reality of formal education with one word: balance.  I think this will provide us with a tremendous capacity to engage students in a way that has not been seen before, but I also think we are faced with a large responsibility to ensure the relationships with students are not lost.

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3 Responses to “EC&I 831 – Technology’s Role in Formal Education”

  1. courosa Says:

    Thanks for your post. I agree with your thoughts of educated for the “whole child” and needed emphasis on areas other than the 3 R’s (for example). However, I wonder about “I fear that we will be quick to turn all of our attention to the new, sexy way of doing things and forget about the value of the human relationship”.

    For me, technology in many ways augments my existing relationships, and helps me discover new meaningful relationships with people (where once these were impossible). So, I am wondering about you deconstruction this notion. Can’t technology be an important part of human relationships? Can’t we use technology to enhance and strengthen human relationships? I’d love to better understand your thoughts here.

    • bgatin Says:

      I hope that it didn’t sound like I was down on technology, especially in schools. I agree that it presents opportunities to augment existing relationships and create new ones as well, but the point I was trying to get point across is that I hope this doesn’t take over and consume the entire educational experience. Although there are unprecedented opportunities to connect with people in the digital world, I do still think there is a large amount of value to learning the value of connecting with people face to face. In no way am I saying that technology shouldn’t be used in schools (I’m actually trying to set up an online pen pal type/skype situation for my Core French classes with an English class in Quebec as we speak), but rather that I hope we would employ a balance and ensure that students are still learning how to work with a group in a face to face setting as well.

  2. Michelle Clarke Says:

    I understand exactly what you mean, and I agree. I think one of technology’s greatest contributions to a learning environment is that it has the ability to bridge distances and gaps and to enhance access for learners who may not be able to attend a formal face-to-face classroom. I also think that with the incorporation of many of the social networking tools we are becoming familiar with in this class, that these ways of learning haves the potential to connect learners to the processes of learning much more efficiently and in an intrinsically motivating way. Technology has a place for sure but you are right, it’s not a panacea for ALL of the inherent challenges of education.

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