Re-Examining the Need For Using Technology in Instruction

The implementation of technology into classroom instruction has been a major focus in California public schools for several years. Prospective teachers in credential programs across the state are drilled as to the importance of exposing students to the technology tools available to access important data and information to use in their academic and professional life. Given the recent explosion of computer and cellular technology, such a focus is logical and well-reasoned. To be sure, current and future students will have to stay abreast of the ever-changing world of technology should they hope to stay competitive with their peers both in the classroom and in the boardroom. But, as with the case of many well-intentioned educational goals, this objective is one that looks much better on paper than it does in reality.
While its hard to argue that students need to be able to learn how to use technology to ease the accessibility of information and knowledge, I wonder how much the average classroom teacher can teach students much that they already don’t know. High School Students today now use technology several times a day, the vast majority of which view their iPod or iPhone as an appendage rather than a non-living device. A good deal of students not only use computers and related devices-they are quite masterful at doing so. They complete homework faster than ever and know where to look for getting just enough information to complete an assignment They also know the quickest ways to do something truly “valuable,” such as how to illegally download music without being caught and which proxies are the best to bypass the security firewall on the school’s network.
I wonder then, how much can the average teacher teach THEM about technology? And, will the students really get anything new out of using it-other than a slight, temporary relief from their boring teacher? Another problem is in the very nature of most internet or technology based lesson plans, as virtually all are by nature are designed for the student to research and collect parts of information to arrive at a conclusion of sorts. The problem is that the majority of today’s high school students have one thought when receiving an assignment-“What is the fastest, shortest way to the correct answer?” With students bypassing much of the investigatory “fact finding” elements of the assignment, little to nothing is gained and the time is wasted.
Virtually all students now have adequate tech skills. Further, many use them to engage in academic dishonesty. I regularly catch several students each year submitting cut and paste essay papers, and a good number more in the “pocket iPhone” attempt of accessing online information during a test. The alarming thing is that many students do not see the harm in plagiarism-especially if it is using cut and paste “just a little” when writing a paper.
Again, it is not my intent to argue the importance of students gaining high tech skills. Rather, my point is that most students already have more than enough, and are rather unlikely to gain much more from a teacher who did not grow up as part of Generation Text (I just made that up). Actually, I would like to see more emphasis on students learning how to complete their work while NOT using technology. Here is a concept. How about we keep the technology focus, but include standards regarding the traditional research and academic work? As I remind my students, there was a time without the internet, when people went to a place called the library. No, it wasn’t like the library where you go to use the computers. No, back then, the library was a mystical place that had these strange, cumbersome objects that people used to find the info needed to complete term papers. Yes, these great devices were made of paper, and didn’t require batteries or electricity, and were wireless. The main problem, though, is that they required actual effort to use them!

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