Technology as an Aid to Education; Not a Driver.

One large school district in a major Canadian city hit upon a new strategy in 2013-14 to introduce high tech to their classrooms: they started in the middle.


The St. James-Assiniboia Division in Winnipeg acquired iPads for their 3000+ Middle School students (Grades 6-8) as educators sought to prove the contention that these personal computing devices would enhance interest in learning.


Some persons and groups in the school system resisted the idea and worried that technology could prove to be a classroom distraction.


The Middle School students were not the only ones targeted in St. James-Assiniboia. Those in lower grades would share seven or eight iPads per class, while High School students–most of whom already had laptops or tablets–would be encouraged to bring their own devices to school.


How would this work? The tablets were purchased by the school district and then leased to the Middle School students at $100 a pop.


School district officials and other interested educators said the tablets would be incorporated into the curriculum.


The Chief Superintendent of the school district, Ron Weston, explained the rationale this way: “The whole realm of education has changed and most students are already using computers and smartphones to access information anyway. This is just the next step in evolution.”


Tanis Pshebniski, assistant superintendent, said nothing would change in the curriculum as the school board would keep reading skills and numeracy in sharp focus.


The school division and its top people are in a growing group of educators in Canada who have noted that children as young as three are computer literate and familiar with technology, and especially are comfortable in online connectivity and exchanges


Weston added that this familiarity should allow schoolchildren to work together with their teachers in seeking answers to questions posed in the classroom.


"I think it's an exciting time to be in education. There's a real shift here, and this is going to be an exciting initiative," he said.


There is no going back, these educators say, and they are not. Many other urban Canadian school districts, while not going as far as St. James-Assiniboia, are encouraging their students to bring their laptops and tablets to school.


Last but not least, this swing toward universal high tech in the classroom is not catching the people who teach teachers by surprise. The technology already is solidly implanted in teacher’s colleges where teachers are being taught to teach students with smartphones, tablets and laptops.


Some educators worry that students who tune out in a lesson can quickly disappear on the Internet with its millions of distractions and wonder if classroom controls are possible.


Is it a stretch to believe that children will be more inspired by the use of fashionable technology instead of the archaic textbook, which in comparison must seem somewhat dull to bright young minds growing up in a world of ever-advancing technology?


Some pros and cons:


1. Tech makes learning fun

It comes as no surprise that students love working—and playing—with smart phones, iPods, iPads, computers and networked devices of all kinds when it comes to learning. Technology offers a fun, seamless, non-intrusive form of teaching that can make the curriculum more accessible, interactive and engaging for pupils.


2. Tech allows teachers to better connect with students

A 2012 study conducted by the Canadian Teachers’ Federation revealed that 91 percent of teachers reported that the use of technology enabled them to teach the way that they aspire to teach. Many of the teachers also indicated that the use of technology when teaching allowed them to connect with students in a way that suits children best.


3. Promotes media literacy from an early age

While it’s generally thought that the use of tech as a learning aid can be beneficial to kids of all ages, most believe that in order for it to be effective, media literacy must be taught early on. The use of tech in classrooms around the country allows youngsters to become familiar with the latest technology from an early age–technology that they’re likely to be using for the rest of their lives.



1. Highlights inequalities amongst students

Many schools, teachers and families already struggle with the costs associated with a child’s education, and throwing technology into the mix only adds to the problem. The availability of technology resources, equitable access and professional development are three major areas of concern expressed by teachers Canadian teachers, with only half of the respondents of a 2012 survey saying they have sufficient equipment and other technological resources in their classes to implement their curriculum using technology.


2. Still some moral grey areas

Kids tend to take what they find on-line as “fact,” and sometimes this can be far from the case. For technology to be an effective teaching and learning aid, students’ critical skills – as far as reliability of information found on the Web and proper online behaviour and etiquette–must be developed in order for tech to be used as a force for good in the classroom.


Additionally, there are growing concerns around the issue of cyber bullying in schools. “Students need a moral compass when using technology,” Paul Taillefer, president of the Canadian Teachers’ Federation explains, “It’s really all about teaching kids proper media literacy. Digital education can be a tool to help prevent cyber bullying and cyber misconduct, which are obviously both big problems in schools.”


3. Tech doesn’t make kids better learners

While technology may provide hours of fun for kids, it won’t make them better learners. Research has shown that in spite of the fact that young people demonstrate an aptitude for handheld devices, apps and software, many children lack the skills required to use those tools effectively for learning.


The future of learning?

While technology undoubtedly has a host of benefits, the consensus is that technology can assist but never replace the traditional teacher-student relationship in the classroom, with experts suggesting that technology should not be driving instruction and should simply aid it.

By Guest Dev

August 20, 2014