When it comes to the use of technology in classrooms, there seems to be a broad spectrum of opinions and varying levels of comfort. If you were to ask around in your own school community, I’m sure you would hear strong arguments from each side. Some teachers and administrators may be skeptical about the benefits of educational technology and remain cautious. Others may want to be the first to enthusiastically jump in and embrace new technology. Where are you on this continuum?

I was recently reading through a few articles and browsing videos related to the utilization of technology in educational settings. Super exciting, I know… But in addition to being an EdTech nerd, I’m also taking a course on leveraging technology in education for my master’s degree. Here are some of my musings:

I think that it’s limiting and potentially damaging for educational professionals to take either a stand of unbridled enthusiasm or staunch skepticism. Though I am an unapologetic enthusiast, I consider myself a responsible consumer, producer, and curator of educational technology. Much of my daily classroom routine doesn’t incorporate EdTech, and very rarely does an entire activity completely rely on the use of tech. On the other hand, walk into my classroom and you’ll see all kinds of innovative EdTech and gadgets galore! However, when I’ve got an idea for a fantastic new way to inspire my students or a brand new tech tool that I think they’ll do great things with, I am careful to test and trial before introducing anything. Sometimes, my ideas don’t end up making the cut because they may not have enough educational value for my students. Or perhaps that cool new app that I was going to have them download would potentially give students access to unsafe social media interactions. Balance and responsibility are the keys to success here.

Why I'm enthusiastic about the responsible implementation of EdTech:

  • Builds and fosters responsible digital citizens
    • We must acknowledge the reality that technology is all around us. Teachers aren't just preparing students for that mythical "real world" they will someday join. By embracing and incorporating EdTech, schools are taking a proactive approach toward shaping the growing population of digital citizens.
  • Encourages creativity and possibilities
    • It is unquestionable that the use of technology in the classroom has the ability to unlock creative potential in teachers and students. With an ever-growing toolbox of apps and websites which promote and encourage creativity, along with increasingly affordable computers, tablets, and cell phones, the possibilities are virtually limitless!
  • Increases opportunities for personalized learning
    • All that software and hardware I mentioned above is an integral part of the personalization of one’s own learning journey. Specific resources, information, lessons, tutorials, and guides have never been easier to access than in this digital age. Please note that the use of technology in this way is only one aspect of quality personalized learning. This infographic highlights some further considerations for those looking to build a personalized learning program.

My lingering skepticism:

  • Could build and foster irresponsible digital citizens
    • If school districts, individual schools, or even classroom teachers aren’t prepared or on the same page when it comes to responsible tech use, schools can actually harm the development of positive digital citizenship. When it comes to incorporating any kind of technology into an educational institution, especially anything which gives students access to the internet, ignorance is negligence. I highly recommend referring to the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Student Standards.
  • Ineffective or irresponsible implementation
    • Imagine a room full of children mindlessly staring at a TV screen with some less-than-educational video droning on. But wait, they’re filling out an accompanying worksheet; that makes it more valuable, right? This is a classic, albeit outdated and stereotypical, example of technology being ineffectively used in the classroom. Also, this is probably one of the tamest examples you could imagine when it comes to irresponsible use of technology in schools. But I’ll let your imagination do the heavy lifting here. ISTE also has a fantastic set of Standards for Educators which can help school administrators provide their teachers with an appropriate framework when it comes to EdTech.
  • Could be a barrier to learning
    • As a teacher who loves trying out new gadgets, I am acutely aware of how disastrous it can be to a lesson if something goes wrong with the tech you were relying on. Then again, all educators know how important flexibility and critical thinking are, and I’d like to think that most would probably find an innovative solution which would turn the entire lesson into a new kind of learning opportunity. So… I guess if you let it, technology could get in the way of learning… But only if you let it.

If you're reading this, you're probably a stakeholder of some sort in your local school community. Are you a teacher? Administrator? Or perhaps a parent or even a student? Regardless, I'm curious to know your thoughts on the use of technology in classrooms. What’s the most engaging/innovative/powerful way you’ve experienced technology in an educational setting? Please comment below and let me know what you think!