Here I am, writing a blog post reflecting on today’s lecture about learning in the digital age. Quite simply I am having first-hand experience of using technology to communicate with peers, evaluate and discuss. Had I thought too much about the use of technology in learning before today? Honestly not really, but the lecture has made me question its use, whether it has a positive or negative influence on learning and planning when best to use it in lessons.
Is it a negative or positive? Let’s focus on a negative thought to begin. I have seen and worked with children using interactive whiteboards in class, at the time I didn’t question what was happening but after today I have to ask what are these children really learning? If a child is playing a maths game and moves numbers across the page, they may get the answer right but how much cognitive engagement is there? Do children actually understand why it is right? Or the process of working out? I remember at school having maths texts books and the teacher set the task of answering questions one to ten. The answers are all in the back of the book, easy then, just copy the correct answers when the teacher wasn’t looking, then you have the inevitable question “how did you get that answer?” Red faced to have been caught out and not being able to answer, is this not how children can be today with the use of technology?
Understandably there are times when the use of technology is positive, times such as live demonstrations, for example on how birds catch their prey. Teachers could do all the input about it and explain how it happens but being able to show a clip from the internet may help children to make the connection between learning in the classroom to the outside world. Using technology to reinforce learning rather than as the be all and end all. Whilst on the topic of reinforcing learning I have also been fortunate to see how a teacher used technology in what I believe is an effective way. A year 5 class had been reading a book, all about a cat that had got lost in London, didn’t know where he was and on the one time he had tried to escape he had come into contact with the bad cats. The class had various e-mail conversations with the cat and also had a chat room chat. It was decided that the next plan of action was to help the cat escape, using Google maps the children had to direct the cat back the British museum without going on certain roads. The children enjoyed this and used skills that will be useful to them all their life. However for all the positives here I question why could they not have used a paper map? How about sending letters to the cat rather than email or a mixture of both?
During the Skype chat with the year 5 children today, one child said that they like using the computers as it makes the learning quicker and easier, but should learning be easier and quicker? Quality teaching I suppose to some could be quick and easy but I believe that it takes time and effort on both parts to really get the best teaching and learning. I felt happy when collectively the children agreed that they didn’t like reading off a screen, reading is not just about the words on the page but about the feel of a book and with the government worried about children’s health then surely looking at a screen for prolonged periods of time is not helping with this. I think that teachers should plan when it is appropriate to use technology in schools and my personal believe is that technology should be used as a tool to reinforce learning, demonstrate something otherwise hard to do or to make reference into how something works in the real world.