…two years which is more or less how long I’ve been involved in the online ELT world (not much I know), and if there’s been one recurring debate in that time, it’s been about the desirability of technology in the classroom. It’s the discussion that just won’t quit. Every now and again it flares up, with the technophobes and the technophiles battling it out.
All this debate has done for me is to leave me feeling a little two-faced, as on one hand I use Jing, Soundcloud, Google docs and even taught a digital storytelling course in a teacher training context, while on the other hand, I consider myself a fan of teaching unplugged, by adopting a materials light, student centred, conversation driven approach to my teaching.
Apparently, according to some this is tantamount to treason, and so maybe I’ll have to hand in my Dogme certificate. Except, I’ve never felt that they were in any way contradictory. To me, it’s always been simple. I ask myself if this particular website, app or gadget is going to add anything to my lesson. Is it going to embellish what would already be a sound pedagogical lesson without it, or is just there to make me look savvy? Is it going to improve this learning opportunity for the students or is it going to distract from the main purpose of the lesson? And this applies to any type of technology, even down to using the board or making a handout. The question is: Do we need it?
It shouldn’t be tricky, should it? After all, they are just tools. And despite the massive amount of respect I have for the people on both sides of this supposed battle, I have begun to find this discussion rather tiresome.
However now it seems the tide is turning, and some recent blog posts make me rather more hopeful. On Scott Thornbury’s blog, the posting that inspired this one offers a measured and rigorous set of standards that we should apply to any technology we use in the classroom. It seems only fair and proper that we set high standards for ourselves in everything we do, and I don’t see why using technology is any different.
Russell Standard is known for his wonderful work in sharing tech tools on his website, and yet his guest post on Ken Wilson’s blog could have been written by a technosceptic. It shows that he only uses the technologies when he can see a clear and worthwhile practical application, just as Scott Thornbury suggested, and goes a long way in explaining why his videos are so influential.
Finally, tech advocate Sue Lyon Jones has provided us with a basic checklist for deciding whether to use technology or not, which has been universally approved by both ‘sides’ of the argument. It all goes to prove that this idea of ‘sides’, when it comes down to it, is nonsensical.
So I hope that by this time next year (May Two Thousand and Twelve) the discussion will have finally moved on from why we should or shouldn’t use technology in the classroom to how we use or don’t use individual technologies instead, all while applying strict and extremely thorough standards which place the needs of the students at the centre our thinking.
Thanks for reading.
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