Does Technology Enhance Student Learning? That Depends…

When examining whether or not technology enhances student learning, I would say, “well that depends”. During our last EC&I 830 class, Nancy, Amanda, Trevor and Matt presented convincing arguments for both sides of this topic. It was pointed out during the debate that when deciding whether or not technology enhances student learning, it depends on a number of factors. These factors can include the kind of technology that is being utilized, how the technology is being used, who is using the technology and whether or not the users have a strong understanding of what they can do with the technology they have access to.

Dr. Rueben Puentedura created the SAMR model to describe the process of how technology can be integrated into the classroom. This model demonstrates the different ways that technology can be used in the classroom setting. In support of how technology enhances student learning Sarah Kessler wrote an article describing 8 ways that technology is improving education. One particular point she makes is on how technology has allowed for greater global connections. I feel that this is a very true statement. People can build connections with others around the world, even with people they have never met in person.

A few years back I went to a presentation that was put on by George Couros. He demonstrated how teachers could help their student learn about geography and build connections by meeting with other classes around the world via Skype. Each class would create a list of ten hints about where they are located in the world. The classes would meet over the course of a few weeks researching the hints they were given. I have done this a couple of times over the past few years, both with high school and elementary students. Each time I have found the students to be highly engaged and interested to learn not only about another country, but also with getting to meet the other students. This phenomenon of building global connections without physically meeting people is further exemplified in the YouTube video Born Friends, where two girls who never met in person have grown into very close friends.

This video also supports the notion we discussed during the debate about how technology can provide students with a voice they didn’t know they had before. Since teaching from home I have had the opportunity to hear from my students who generally would not talk in the classroom. Some of my most shy students seem much more comfortable speaking over a google meet or typing their thoughts or questions into the chat bar.

While there are many ways in which technology can enhance student learning, I feel that there are also some limitations. I was reading a report from the Stanford Graduate School of Education titled: How Technology Can Close Achievement Gaps and Improve Learning. The article states that research has shown that technology when used properly “can produce significant gains in student achievement and boost engagement, particularly among students most at risk”. It is important to note that the success in student achievement is found only when the technology is used “properly”. In the report it points out the importance of providing teachers adequate professional development for how to use the technology as well as support in how to manage the hardware, software and connections to the internet.

As a teacher who has now had to move to teaching exclusively online, I sometimes feel the pressure of using platforms I am not fully comfortable with. At the same time I need to be a trouble shooter for students and parents when the app or platform is not working the way they or I thought it should. When this is the case, I would say technology does not enhance student learning, but rather can lead to frustration and disengagement from students. I feel this supports the recommendation in the report that teachers need adequate professional development in the use of certain types of technology. I feel that in future school divisions will be providing teachers with more support in how to use technology, especially if teaching from home continues to be the new “normal”.

Overall, I agree with the statement that technology enhances student learning. Even though there are some limitations, I feel that benefits of using technology out weighs the drawbacks. After all, without the help of technology we would not be able to reach our students or continue helping them learn valuable skills, even if its not in the way had planned.

2 thoughts on “Does Technology Enhance Student Learning? That Depends…”

  1. Hi Alyssa, I appreciate you sharing how some of your students are contributing more online than in the classroom. My youngest daughter just said to me this week that she thinks she is doing better in this online environment because it is easier for her to contribute. She has always been the quiet kid in class who does well but gets the report card comments such as: “I encourage her to speak up in class” or “She could contribute more to class discussions.” Her ideas have always been there but she has been too shy to share them out loud. This is an important skill in confidence to learn, for sure, yet there are other ways to share. That said she still wishes she could go to school everyday and see her friends and teachers in person, but maybe her teachers will have learned something about her in this new environment that can help her share more in the future. Thanks for your interesting post!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Alyssa, your title caught my eye as that is exactly how I feel about this topic. As you stated, I think our current situation has really highlighted the good and the bad sides of technology. Your statement that technology can lead to frustration and disengagement is a reality that I think not only students are experiencing but parents and teachers too. Remote learning has really put a spotlight on the lack of PD for technology. As you mentioned, I too hope that we come out of this with divisions providing more PD options.

    Liked by 1 person

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