Welcome to another week that featured two outstanding and passionate debates! I was definitely on the fence with these topics and had to unpack the presented information. Well done, teams! Our first debate presentation was on schools having to teach skills that can be easily carried out by technology. The ‘agree’ team had a brilliant opening argument video that featured clever use of technology to present their side. This video alone had me wavering on my initial feelings on the topic.
As an educator, I believe in balance, but I also believe in meeting the needs of each individual student. Technology allows for access and opportunity. Although we can agree that there are a digital divide and money ‘talks’ regarding advanced platform features, there are still several accessible technologies that assist and enhance student learning experiences. If you teach middle-year Mathematics, you may recall teaching percentages and how to find them mentally. You may have even challenged students to say that they would never carry a calculator to the store or mall and emphasized the importance of the lesson! With one flash of their cellphones, those words become meaningless. Jokes on us… they carry a calculator….every…where…they…go! The group also expressed the ease and speed technology presents. Take SeeSaw for example. Students can reflect and share their learning with their teachers and families instantly! Assistive technologies allow students with intensive needs to overcome challenges. Undoubtedly, technology is a great tool!
We have a duty to educate our students through 21st Century Learning Skills. In Forbes, Erica Swallow’s (2012) article challenges the education system to evolve and become innovative to meet these new skills. In the article, Tony Wagner explains, “as a country [we] need the capacity to solve more different kinds of problems in more ways. It requires us to have a very different vision of education, of teaching and learning for the 21st century.” Technology allows society to reach new horizons and opens opportunities.
However, as I mentioned, balance is key! Our opposing team emphasized the importance of fundamental skills being taught in schools. Is technology reliable? It can be but take spell check for example. When a student types the ‘wrong’ word correctly, spell check doesn’t pick up on the grammatical mistake. Furthermore, I am a firm believer that reading creates better writers and that writing improves comprehension and retention. We can agree that many of our society is too reliant on technology. Technology is great when it works, but what happens when it doesn’t? How are we still providing students opportunities to think outside the use of technology critically?
Personally, I am a HUGE fan of Dr. Peter Liljedahl’s Building Thinking Classrooms and engage students in the framework in Math and other subject areas, tasks, and assignments to get the students to think. I often found that students wait for the answer or feel hopeless if they can’t use the mighty Google to rely on a solution. John Merrow’s blog on the Back to Basics model explains that “the earlier ‘back to basics’ movements failed because schools obsessed about The Three R’s to exclude creativity, fun, art, music and physical education.” How do we engage students creatively while promoting fundamental skills transferable to new 21st Century Learning?
Finally, I want to share how technology can present itself. I work with many English as Additional Language (EAL) learners in my current role. They share their secret when asked how they learned or refined the English language. The secret is being exposed to the English language through movies. To me, this is a form of technology. Technology has also gifted me the opportunity to teach EAL learners through oral and written translation, so students don’t miss a beat. Again, technology is great when it works, but we must also be aware of balance!