The phenomenal growth in social media and technology is having a profound effect on our teaching resources, educational values and learning techniques. But has the pressure to use more technology overtaken reason and the innate ability of teachers to teach?
The pressure from leading edge educational suppliers and authourities is having a profound effect of how we teach. The combined marketing weight from global palyers such as Microsoft, Facebook, Apple and Twitter is clamoring for the time and budgets of schools from early learning to GCSE. All new products and technologies attempt to provide the answer to improve performance in tests and exams. The must-have element of the technology is dificult to resist but are we responding to this marketing pressure in a sensible way. The pressure to perform aginst targets ans league tables can influence judgement especially when, overall, our educational system is deemed to be failing. In the UK we are sliding down the OEPD international educational league table at an alarming rate. Is this the result of the clamour to use technology in teaching – “teachnology” at the expense of well honed schooling principles.
The infamous interactive white boards, where every clssroom had to have one, resulted in huge investment to utlise amazing new ways of displaying data. But the vast majority were never used anywhere near their design potential, instead most are used as a chalkboard with the power off. Failure in the system or fuanctionality unknown to the teacher didn’t help. PowerPoint is another drain on teaching resources. Hours can be spent preparing slides complete with amazing animation, sound and highlighting features that conspire to have a negative effect on the audience in the classroom. Bewitched and bewildered by the presentation content children’s attention drifts or become engrossed in how they could correct the technical failings of the teacher. The lesson content becomes sidetracked by technology. Certainly the benefits of having a lesson prepared for repeated use is a positive aid to a teacher but not if the presentation is flawed. Many commercial operations have banned PowerPoint, recognising the drain on resources from the time invested in its creation and the often overelaborate nature of presentations. Meetings have been proven to be more succinct and memorable when the speaker is addressing the audience rather than reading endless slides.
Schools are beset with an ever increasing array of new technology. Barely a week goes by without some new and astounding gismo arriving on the scene. And we have to have it! Be it a completely new product or the latest update the marketing boys are after a sale. But there are hidden costs. Anyone who has bought a new computer knows that it will take about two days to upload all the information from the old PC. Swapping operating software takes weeks to achieve and that ignores fundamental changes from say a PC to a Mac. In school the relaince on the IT guy is critical. If they are too busy the new project joins the queue.
The supposed gains from the use of computers in the classroom leads to amazing frustration when they don’t work. The teacher may make a valiant attempt to correct the fault only to lose half the lesson. And now we all need to have iPad tablets in class. Costing twice as much and far more vulnerable to damage the investment by any school takes a quantum leap as manufacturers continue to update their products to boost sales. And we haven’t touched on any socially divisive elements of the have and have nots that such equipment has on schools and parents with low budgets.
Is all this technology worth it? The stark answer is use with with caution. Despite the wonderful opportunity technology claims to offer our teaching achievement in the UK has slipped. With some notable exceptions we are generally going backwards in the quality of education being provided. Therefore the quality of teaching before the gizmo’s arrived had higher relevance and impact. We can’t ignore technology but we need to make sure the must have facilities actually work in the class and not take the advances claimed as sacrosanct.