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Discussion: Is technology being used for technology's sake in the classroom?

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Rebecca Galley
20 September 2010

This discussion started in the Science Team Cloud set up for the 'Using technologies in teaching' workshop held at the OU.

I have copied an pasted initial discussion below.

Rebecca

Rebecca Galley
3:17pm 16 September 2010 (Edited 3:27pm 16 September 2010)

Comment 1 by Prof Lee Hubbard

Prof Lee Hubbard
9:32am 16 September 2010

Hi there everyone

I will start the discussion with a question

Is technology being used for technologies sake in the class room.?..

Prof Lee Hubbard

Comment 2 by Rebecca Galley

Rebecca Galley
3:17pm 16 September 2010 (Edited 3:27pm 16 September 2010)

Or...are technological tools being installed in the classroom for 'technology''s sake but not really used?

Comment 3 by Prof Lee Hubbard

Prof Lee Hubbard
12:37pm 18 September 2010

thats an interesting observation and something I have seen supported in my own observations in schools.  From what I have observed the technology is there and being used but a such a minimal level that it is basically an illuminated blackboard.

The problem that I can see for teaching staff is the vast array of functions that modern technology makes available. To take advantage of this new functionality you have to be a professional programmer or have access to the sort of IT support and development which frankly cannot be found at the average school.  When observing I ahve thought of a number of wyas in which a presentation could be made more interactive with a little macro here or bit of code there...but how can you ask an already busy teacher to sit down and learn modern programming techniques.

I think the answer is much better IT support in schools with staff capable of taking on development jobs and building new intereactive solutions within the school. Too often I see technology installed and underused or as a recently mismanaged but inadequately trained IT staff.

My answer is thus better support for teachers from an IT view point and stronger encouragement to pass on development of new presentations to professional IT staff or hight experienced IT / Teaching staff.

Prof Lee Hubbard

Comment 4 by Chris Kirkland

Chris Kirkland
7:48pm 18 September 2010


I am lucky enough to have a dry wipe board as well as an interactive whiteboard and internet access. I tend to find the PhET website phet.colorado.edu gets used most lessons. Also Southampton Universities "Waves" resource is excellent for moving diagrams. The advantage over other interactive resources is there is nothing to program or install. Students can also use the applets to try things out. The applets and moving diagrams show extra information that you cannot see in real life but help in the learning process. It is also nice to be able to record information from class/group work in text documents or spreadsheets to make it available for later analysis or review. With so the variety of students to accomodate the technology has to be easy to use and reliable. Some technology is amazing if you can afford to give it your full attention but that is not what we want to do. Having someone show you how easy something is helps to overcome the initial reluctance. I would be lost without my technology toys.

Comment 5 by Rebecca Galley

Rebecca Galley
10:52am 20 September 2010

Hi Chris - good to see you in this discussion! And thanks for sharing a few subject specific tools (any chance of the links...:-) ) I agree that having someone showing us that creative use of technology doesn't have to be an all or nothing element in our learning designs is really important, and also hearing about the experiences of experienced teachers who can now not think about teaching in any other way.

Prof, I come (like Chris) from FE and my experience of schools education is limited but I'd say that FE does have techie people about the place but that in itself is not enough. My experience is that few IT support folk have the pedagogical understanding to support the teaching part of teaching with technology. I think there is a real need for a defined learning technologist role in schools, as there is is most HE institutions and some FE. Someone who's job it is to keep on top of new ideas and uses of technology for learning and teaching and share best practice.

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Pierre Vigoureux
2:41pm 23 September 2010 (Edited 2:46pm 23 September 2010)


It is a trivial exercise to demonstrate the advantage of "technology" in teaching mathematics. For example, having a video projector displaying initially the questions to be solved in class, and then displaying the answers when the class has finished the exercise, gives the teacher more time to walk around and do informal formative assessment, then if time is spent writing out the questions on the board.

However, in the teaching certification course that I attend, it is implied that if I do not use certain aspects of the "technology", then I am failing to use it correctly. For example, using a teacher's interactive whiteboard only in a non-interactive mode. I disagree with this implication.

I see the issue of the usefulness of certain aspects of the technology as this: it is not necessary that "technology" either is better or adds to the learning process, but it is necessary that it does not detract from the learning process. And I see plenty of evidence in the classroom that it can sometimes detract from that process.

It is often true that a mathematician does not really understand the mathematics until he tries to teach it to someone else. What is really meant by this is that the mathematician had at first the intelligence to internally "verbalise" the pattern recognition, in the same way Pavlov's dogs internally verbalise "a bell means dinner time". The mathematician only develops the "connected" thinking when he is able to choose "meaningful" words to communicate with others. That this "connected thinking" then makes it easier to "solve problems" is a consequence of the "reorganisation" that he had to do to get the idea out, not a cause.

Even when there are "advantages" in using "technology", they are not always as great as we make them. For example it may be an "advantage" for ME to write out before class the question "slide" and the "answer" slide, but this is more due to my fear of relying on students to check the answers to the questions in a textbook at the back of the textbook AFTER I say they can, or of them doing it BEFORE I say they can. In other words, my fear of students being "passive" learners.

I have had successful "impromptu" classes where I covered the quadratic functions, and did not have access to a program like Descartes, which draws graphs of functions. So yes, it is "nice" to be able to draw a graph "precisely" so that students can see that the "minimum value" is halfway between the two roots. But the real utility of a program like Descartes is when the students use it to investigate for themselves - on THEIR own computer. The fact is that my rough sketches on an "ordinary" whiteboard, illuminated by a plain screen shot of graph paper, "modelled" for the student what their notes on quadratic equations should look like in their workbook - in a way that a slick and precise Descartes screen shot could never do.

My point is that I find most often that an "interactive whiteboard" is more for the teacher's benefit, not the student's. I "suggest" that in the "ordinary" maths class the most important "interactivity" is between the student and the teacher, and that in a maths class in an ICT room, the most important "interactivity" is the notes the students WRITE down, on PAPER. Or, if they can be "trusted" to do so, as "e-notes".

I have found, as many other teacher have, that it isn't even necessary for the student to read his own notes afterwards for learning to take place - the learning takes place when the student "translates" the input into the "output". This is also why I would suggest that a key element of "revising" is to rewrite the notes again.

I see the real advantage of "technology" is that when the student interacts "one to one" with the technology, he is constantly "revising" his own "notes" - and is thus learning. This is also the real disadvantage of "technology" - that students who at home are often passive receptors of the "idiot box" television, and passive reactors to "play station" games consoles, can be passive receptors and reactors to "e-learning" - unless we ensure "active" interactivity. "Dangerous" interactivity - that challenges the student.

Lindy Zubairy
2:39pm 3 April 2011


I SO agree with Rebecca Galley's excellent suggestion that schools need Learning Technology Advisors. I was a Design and Technology teacher in a secondary school and always the keenest to adopt the teaching technologies made available to me, but my experience was ABSOLUTELY that it was  terrifyng to try to use some technologies in the classrooms the first few times and the fear that something might go wrong and wreck the whole lesson put even me off for some time. Many of the other teachers wouldn't go anywhere near using their whiteboards interactively, using video, etc, despite having all the equipment and software to hand. If we'd had an LTA on hand to train us and then BE THERE when we used the technology, it would have made a huge difference. I, for one, could have used someone with a few task ideas as well, especially when I started out.  Now I work in HE, quite closely with LTAs and have discovered they exist! It seems impossibly luxurious and even a bit mollycoddling for lectureres by comparison - especially since adult learners would be a whole lot more patient and forgiving than a class of inner city comprehensive teenagers if there were any hitches.

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