We all have heard different renditions of that saying, “Back in my day we had to walk to school barefoot uphill both ways!” This saying is what first came to my mind when thinking about how teaching and learning have changed with the introduction of new tools.

Image designed by Zack Finfrock

I feel that as a millennial born in 1986 I have an interesting perspective on this topic because I have experienced a wide range of the technology boom in schools as both a student and a teacher.

When the World Wide Web of internet officially became public in 1991, I was 5 years old. I don’t remember many specifics about elementary school, but I do remember my family got our first computer with dial up internet when I was in Jr. high. Although that was the case, while in high school I can still remember doing research by looking through a set of encyclopedias that my family owned, or I would go to the library and search through books of info to find what I needed. I used computers at school for a little research but mostly for typing and publishing. The teaching and learning for me in school was VERY teacher centered with the teacher as the ‘sage on the stage’ while students sat and took notes. Little to no tech was utilized at this time.

Moving on to college was when social networks came out like Myspace with my good old first friend Tom, and a year later, Facebook. At this time I was going to school to get my teaching degree where I was again learning mostly by basic lecture and note taking, but there was a slight shift to becoming more student-centered. I remember my classes on learning how to teach different subjects were mostly centered around using textbooks, worksheets, and activities with little to no emphasis on tech. It was more about how to use tech as instructional aids (overhead projector, iMove, email, etc.), not how to get kids using and learning from tech themselves.

My first ever teaching position was in 2008 at the International Christian School of Pyongtaek, South Korea. Thinking back to my teaching in those first few years really makes me think about how much things have changed. Here is a little snapshot of how I taught using a very teacher centered approach.

  • I taught reading out of basal readers or by doing book studies with everyone reading the same books at the same time.
  • I taught writing through grammar textbooks. There was constant skill and drill on grammar rules and spelling with little to no creative writing taking place.
  • Math was done solely by textbook and practice questions or worksheets.
  • Social Studies was also heavily textbook based. We would read different sections of the book and do activities or answer questions at the end of the chapters.
  • Science was textbook based as well and I tried to work in fun experiments or STEM activities when possible.
  • Technology in my classroom? I had a desktop computer and printer to be used only by me.
  • Technology use by students was done during their ‘Computer Special’ class one day a week where they learned typing and using basic design tools like Tux Paint and Kidspiration.

Fast forward to 2018 and you can clearly see my teaching has changed drastically due to the use of technology in my classroom. But, the question I keep asking myself now is, “Is this working?”

After reading  Are We Getting Smarter About Ed Tech by Suzie Boss I was shocked to learn that,

Students, Computers, and Learning Making the Connection concludes that investments in classroom technology are yielding “no appreciable improvements in student achievement in reading, mathematics, or science.” What’s more, the study found technology to be of little help in “bridging the skills divide between advantaged and disadvantaged students.” And then there was this headline-grabber: “Students who use computers very frequently at school do worse than their peers.”

If our current way we teach with tech is clearly not improving learning, how do we make it better? What should teaching and learning look like now that we have all of these amazing tech resources at our fingertips? And what will it look like in the future?

Boss also states,

The OECD report offers this suggestion: “If we want students to become smarter than a smartphone, we need to think harder about the pedagogies we are using to teach them.”
Experiential learning, project-based learning, and other inquiry approaches are among the strategies that put learners in the role of active participants, according to OECD. Similarly, Zhao suggests students use technology as “a tool for creating and making authentic products,” rather than merely consuming information or performing rote tasks.
Tech tools to support these instructional strategies can range from simulations to social media to serious games. Both teaching and learning are enhanced by tools that deliver real-time formative assessment, foster collaboration and digital citizenship, personalize learning, and enable student creativity.

After finding all of this, it is easy to see that technology has definitely changed both teaching and learning. But, in order to enhance learning with technology integrated, we must be teaching it in the right way:

  • Student centered
  • Collaborative
  • Connected to the outside world
  • Creative

I will leave you with a quote that spoke to me from Sugata Mitra’s award winning talk at TED2013: 

Sugata Mitra. (n.d.). AZQuotes.com. Retrieved March 01, 2018, from AZQuotes.com Web site: http://www.azquotes.com/quote/763671