Technology in Education has been among us for a long while, and due to the Covid-19 pandemic, technology-based teaching took a sprint. But let’s face it, it has not always been for the better. This article delves into the pros and cons of technology in the classroom.

Recent surveys among students show that they are longing for going back to class, to meet their fellow students and have face-to-face conversations instead of staring at a screen. Teachers have shared that they are experiencing something called technology-fatigue, and instead of embracing a potential positive solution, they have a deep desire for going back to class too.

We do not claim that online teaching is better than face-to-face, however we all know that with using the right technology for the right purpose, disruptive learning environments are now made possible. So, what are we doing wrong – how come we have reached this technology-fuelled online teaching fatigue? Let’s take a deeper look into some “situational” pros and cons of technology in the classroom.

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Teach with Video (killed the radio star)

Videos are engaging, they limit the amount of reading materials and speed up the content delivery. If well done, they also help with understanding complex matters, and can bring fun and more interesting learning experiences. Using video teaching content in class or as an asynchronous tool, it requests different production, content and call to action.

Although there are also a lot of good videos out there that can support your learning materials, it is rather simple nowadays to create your own. Even without having the most expensive high-tech in house. If you create your own, it does require some technique to avoid boring formats, bad sound or visual quality. Bad production means the video risks being a hindrance rather than bringing you any helpful benefits.

Here are a few of the best inexpensive video creation tools for teachers:

  • Most likely your mobile phone, your computer software package or your LMS have an instant video recording feature. This may limit you for editing, but it works well if you make sure the camera captures the right image and the sound quality is good.
  • Camtasia, an easy tool. It includes easy editing and animation tools https://www.techsmith.com/tutorial-camtasia.html
  • Vimeo, video creation made easy and fun, and the tool has a lot of examples to give you ideas https://vimeo.com/create.

Also, be careful not to overkill one format and use video ALL the time. Take into consideration what the video is used for: is it replacing something, adding something, increasing the understanding or engagement? A simple audio piece, podcast, a reference or a discussion as a means of delivering learning content is still recommended.  

PROS:

  • Video is engaging and fun, it triggers more senses and can enhance learning.
  • Video can help in explaining difficult subject matters.
  • Video reduces the time of reading and allows you to “instruct” asynchronously.

CONS:

  • Creating a good quality educational video can be time consuming.
  • Overkill of video content is not what students want; bad videos are even more distracting.
  • If not used well, video does not always have a significant outcome or impact on learning.

Best tools and platforms for teaching: Lost in a jungle

Padlet, Google Doc, Miro, - Canva, Poll Everywhere, Quizlet, - MS Team, Skype, Zoom - the use of certain tools and the integration in our daily teaching has exploded. All these tools do not only take time to understand and integrate but are also confusing for the student. Variations are good, however it is essential to create some consistency in which tools we select for assessment, communication, discussion, etc. Also keeping structure and consistency of integrated tools in your LMS, means less time lost in the need to explore new tools. If a tool has the same functionality, do not start exploring for alternatives. Make a decision on which tool is best for what function and share among teachers, or even better, allow management to decide which tools are used and which not.

This also avoids major differences between the teaching methods of tech-savvy faculty and those who struggle with using MS teams for a group connect session. In this case, it is really the technology that is used as a support element not as a disruptive tool to enhance learning outcomes. Meaning, spend as little time as needed to re-invent the wheel.

PROS:

  • Creativity and diversity in communication and group work can enhance learning.
  • Some tools have proven to be essential in this remote teaching time and allow a-synchronous and synchronous teaching.
  • Tools allow the use different types of assessment and could fit well within the concept of active learning.

CONS:

  • New tools take time and investment. Some variations only allow limited amount of free trials.
  • When the tool is not essential for what needs to be achieved, we may question it in general.
  • Overkill of online quizzes and Padlet’s has quickly ruined the surprise effect and the collaboration of enthusiasts.

Bottom line investment in technology for the classroom: money & time

Teachers spend a lot of time working “outside” of actual teaching; technology has the potential to save some time in repetitive or not “core related” tasks. Whether we seek the potential in an automated marking tool, using digital content to transmit knowledge, use video conferencing from home, using and re-using pre-made activitiess in a digital setting; all in all, there is a huge potential and variety to actually save time and save money. In many environments, Covid-19 has brought variable costs even more to the surface. Technology could help cut back on “hidden” costs.

But before it comes to that, it requires an enormous investment of time, patience, and money. Before using new technology, each teacher has to dive in, practice and become confident in using it in the teaching-approach. Often, no extra time is given, compensated for, or there is simply no time to invest in understanding and using new technology. Therefore, it is hugely important to determine “nice-to-have” versus “essential benefit” in adopting a new tool or service.  

When deciding on certain technology and implementation, it is also important to have user friendly tools, whereby technology and user support is guaranteed either from the supplier or from your “in house” IT support team. If neither are available, limit your time on exploring new tools and systems as eventually this does not lead to money or time savings.

Change and improvements require time investment and support on all levels, It will lead to less frustrations and ambiguity once you know why you are making the investment (money or time) first. It will also mirror positivity on the students, as once it is clear why certain decision have been made and changes are implemented they will also experience the benefits.

PROS:

  • Technology can save time and resources.
  • Technology can help teachers to focus on their core tasks.
  • The right set-up and tools will enhance the learning environment for teacher and student.

CONS:

  • It costs time and money, continued support and updates.
  • Resources require support and understanding before it “works”.
  • Due to technology, the role of the teacher is assessed and monitored in a different way and when not adjusted this can impact quality.

Technology can be collaborative even when we’re far apart

It is clear that all technology strategies in teaching don’t always make a difference to learning outcomes, let alone enhancement of student learning. Technology does not create better students and unfortunately it also does not create better teachers. It could even do the opposite.

Therefore, the education sector is in a unique situation as remote teaching was enforced in the academic year 2019/20 when the pandemic took hold, and still is ongoing in most countries (where Covid restrictions apply or where students have not been able to travel yet). If we do not embrace and integrate technology for a disruptive purpose, we need at least to make sure it is supporting us in our teaching practices. 

For example, there are technology solutions that still give us great advantage in remote sessions with our students and enforce collaboration. Here are some examples of the best technology solutions for collaboration:

  • MS team breakout rooms
  • Google shared documents
  • enhanced discussions via LMS communication tools
  • integrated video to reduce lecturing and reading, etc.

Technology can still add something meaningful regardless if you are forced to teach remotely or if you are back in the classroom. Used correctly, it can enhance engagement, motivation, broaden the perspective of new sources online, help with student-centered learning and promote digital savviness among students. Technology in the classroom means students get to learn new ways of research, gathering sources, collaboration, documentation, communication, participatory media, etc.

Technology that has no clear objective for either your own benefit or for the entire organization should be given very little attention until it is framed within an overall strategy.

PROS:

  • Teaching that otherwise would not have been possible.
  • Technology has broadened our horizons, has given us worldwide communication, collaboration and resource sharing that otherwise was not possible during the pandemic.
  • Due to the big shift, we have accelerated in our “need” to change traditional educational environments.

CONS:

  • Technology may have increased loneliness, isolation, digital discrimination and other impacts that we could not have planned.
  • We feel lost and uncertain if and how to integrate technology wisely when our situation goes back to normal.
  • We may have spent a lot of time and energy on things that have not enhanced learning, reduced costs, or increased efficiency.

Is it right to bring technology into the classroom?

Technology has immense potential for education, but it makes only a significant difference if used “correctly” and / OR if the strategy from the organization has brought up a clear rational for the use of technology

If not used properly, or lacking a distinct rationale, it is understandable that many teachers would want to go back to “the old days” as the new setting has not been satisfying learners or educators alike. Maybe a mistake for educators and school leaders is to think: What can I do with technology? Asking that question will most likely lead to dissatisfaction, as opposed to "What can this technology do for me?" This question may bring back the pros needed to successfully integrate technology into the classroom and mitigate any cons outlined in this article.

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Senior Project Manager Sales and Digital Channels EHL Group

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