Listening to the Naysayers: Wisdom from the other side (Part 1)

Sometimes I wish to roll my eyes at the naysayers who say that we shouldn’t be using technology in classrooms, or maybe just grab their shoulders and shake them. But, no worries, I refrain. It can be frustrating to work with those who don’t want to change. It seems, however, that I need to be a bit more patient.

It’s isn’t always fear of change that motivates the hesitations to use technology; sometimes they’re just real concerns. A recent conversation with a fellow teacher (through online means, ironically) helped me to think differently about reluctant technology users. In this case, it turned out that they weren’t a naysayer at all, but just think from a different point of view, a point of view that we need. We in the Ed tech world need to listen closely and think about what reluctant embracers have to say.

There are many and varied concerns out there about educational technologies, but here’s the ones that she brought up.

1. “It can increase anti-social behaviour and cyberbullying.” Now the students aren’t necessarily bullying each other on iPads in class, but there’s an important point here. Since any technology could be used for good or bad, increased usage, or even increased skill with these classroom technologies could result in increased negative social outcomes. Which means, beyond just teaching curriculum with technology, we also need to constantly be teaching and modelling appropriate usage. Students need to learn how to use the technology with compassion and respect, and how to make it improve their lives and others. As technology usage continues to grow, this is something that all students vitally need to learn when they are young.

2. “Kids should spend more time away from screens and get out and be active.” I totally agree; kids should get outside more. If students are showing signs of being too sedentary in their private lives because of screen-time, are we not then further promoting a more sedentary lifestyle by using screens there too? I don’t think that connection is exactly solid, since the problem isn’t directly ‘screens.’ Screens are merely the new currency of information in our modern lives, whether work or play; it’s what they are used for that matters. Writing an assignment at school on a tablet probably isn’t the same as what they do on screens at home. Nevertheless, this brings up an important issue about modern changes in students physical activity at home. This should concern us, and we should be making more of an effort to get students outside and away from all technologies, such as books, desks, and screens.

3. “The technology is too expensive.” Indeed it is expensive and this is certainly an important issue. It can be overcome, however, (and has been proven to be successful) if the return on investment from the technology is greater than older technologies. A lot can be spent on photocopying and printing costs, textbook, video, and resource purchasing. There are certain technologies that allow for possibilities with lightening fast speeds that older technologies just cannot deliver such as instant classroom feedback systems for discreet assessment of learning, or real-time collaborative multimedia creation tools. The return on investment in learning can be quite high. This concern, however, does bring up the fact that this isn’t always the case. Any attempt to just get more tech into schools without considering what needs it is meeting, isn’t the best for kids. If we aren’t getting a good return on investment either by saving money or increasing student learning, then the technology is not worth it. If we keep teaching with old methods and tools while new technology collects dust, it should not have been purchased.

More to come!


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