I recently had the pleasure of discussing our mutual of topic of interest with my learning partner John Powszedny. John is an instructor at BCIT and has experienced first hand the benefits and challenges of technology on student engagement. I had the opportunity to ask a few questions to get his feedback:
What’s the biggest barriers that technology represents to the learner’s engagement ?
John spoke of the challenge that technology can represent in maintaining focus and the potential for “time wasting that doesn’t really teach the material” impeding student engagement.
This suggests that instructors not only deliver course content but should act as a guide; what technology is appropriate to use and when; what material is relevant and appropriate.
John also suggested that “The Digital Divide” can also be a barrier. How do we ensure that everyone has equal access to the technology and a “level playing field”? As technology becomes increasingly prevalent is it reasonable to assume that students have smart phone at their disposal? or a tablet to take notes on?
So with a dizzying array of information and delivery options what’s the best way to help students cope?
John underscored the importance of helping students find reliable resources of information; somewhat jokingly suggesting ” you cant go to Wikipedia to learn brain surgery”.
John also had some really good practical suggestions for leveraging technology in the classes he teaches.
He suggested demonstrating the use of technology in the class; not to take it’s use for granted. In his case, some of the technology used is part of what is taught and forms essential building blocks to future work.
Youtube videos of demonstrations in particular can provide a valuable resource to students. They shouldn’t however shouldn’t replace actual live lectures. ” It would be a waste of time for students to come to class and simply watch a movie” says John.
At the end of the day though he did come back to the importance of the role of the instructor; particularly in demonstrating hands on training: “Live demos are better than Youtube … students prefer to have a live person demonstrating”.
After looking at technology and engagement would you change your opinion of the use technology in classroom ?
John suggested that his approach is evolving to be more “softer and gentler” in which there is a greater understanding but not necessarily agreement with how technology should be used. For example, the use of cell phones in the classroom. Rather than banning their use it might be better to discuss openly , and establish, an etiquette that doesn’t impact the teachers or other learners.
We discussed the use of paper and pen and writing notes versus using technology. We both agreed that the act of writing notes is one of the best ways to ensure that information is more deeply learned. Maybe we are both a bit old-school that way ?
Overall I believe that John and I share the premise of technology as a simply a tool. How and when the tools are used and for what should form part of the active dialogues between the instructor and learner. I also learned from John that a pragmatic, balanced approach to the use of technology likely best. Just like any diet …everything in moderation.