Do We Really Need Technology in the Classroom?

The answer to this question may not be a clear yes or no. Some teachers have a favorable opinion on instructional uses of technology, but they do not have access to much of that technology. Their answer is yes in theory, but no in practice. Other teachers would not speak out against using technology in the classroom, but prefer to teach using traditional methods they are more familiar with. Their answer is no for me, but it’s fine for others to use technology if they want to.  Among teachers who do utilize technology in their instruction, are those who may state an absolute yes; certain forms of technology have become integral in their lessons.

I’d argue that in a traditional classroom setting, it’s definitely possible to teach effectively with only chalk and a chalkboard at the teacher’s disposal. Sound pedagogy, sufficient knowledge of one’s subject, sensitivity to the students’ needs, and a genuine love for one’s work is a simple enough recipe for a teacher’s success. But on a daily basis ready-made materials in the form of a textbook facilitate a teacher’s job and can reinforce or even add depth to a well-done presentation at the board. Carefully crafted activities by other educators can offer the right kind of practice your students need. If a good textbook is available, why not use it and let the students benefit from two resources: you and the book?

Likewise, technology that allows us to use media such as audio CDs, DVDs, digital slide presentations, and online interactive exercises can increase the effectiveness of our classroom teaching. We must be open to new ways of providing instruction.  This doesn’t mean that all old ways must be replaced, but we do need to reflect and examine the old alongside the new. Then we consider the possibility of modifying and updating our approach. If technology is available, how can we ignore it and still fulfill our professional obligation to continually develop and perfect our craft? At the very least, shouldn’t we test the technology out and see how it might facilitate our teaching and our students’ learning?

I should clarify that I’m arguing in favor of technology being used both in and outside the classroom. The full instructional potential of multimedia isn’t reached when it’s limited to self-study resources in a school lab. Teachers should ideally have access to different forms of technology in their classrooms and should be trained to use it.

A final argument for the use of technology in language instruction is tied to the growing use of technology worldwide. The number of people who are computer literate and able to use electronic devices is on the rise, not the decline. Children in many countries are exposed to computers even before their first day of school. Thousands of teenagers around the globe cannot imagine life without online social networking sites. Students at more and more universities are receiving course information and turning in coursework over the Internet. In the Digital Age, we need to convey information to our students in a form that is familiar to them. Instruction without technology may seem very one-dimensional to learners who have become used to processing information embedded in rich digital contexts.

7 Comments Add yours

  1. Peter says:

    Do we really need technology? Think about the great minds of the past. Let’s just take a brief look at Sherlock Holmes. What did he use to battle his arch enemy? Did he use gadgets or did he use logic? I think all of this 21 century educational fad is just that a fad. It too will pass, and what will stand in its place. I probably will not win a noble prize for this one. How about teaching our kids to think critically. Wow that’s an idea. Teach our students to read critically. To analyze primary and secondary sources critically. To take there minds from the “t.v. gutter” to the “traditional classical education.”

    1. englishwithjennifer says:

      Hello Peter,
      I welcome all viewpoints, and I’m glad you didn’t hesistate to voice yours, though as you said it may not win you a Nobel Prize.🙂
      Joking aside, your argument in favor of teaching critical thinking skills is one few can disagree with.

      Some of the tech-tools may indeed be here today and gone tomorrow, but it’s hard to see technology completely withdrawn from education at this point. Use of the Web, for example, has really become a norm.

      I believe in all things there should be a balance. If technology ever dominates instructional content instead of facilitating it, then it’s not appropriate. I’m for technology as a support for teaching and learning, not a substitute.

  2. You gotta be in shape to be a blogger. lol.

  3. sarahlaine01 says:

    Although I can appreciate the fact that a good teacher can teach with nothing but a chalkboard, don’t you all think that it is putting your students at a disadvantage by not incorporating technology into your instruction?

    I am still a student of education and have not put into practice my ideas yet, but I have found many educators are succeeding in the English class by using technology.

    English as a discipline is being criticized as not “relevant” for future generations. I think that it is in all of the English-lovers interest that we learn how the new and the old can be merged to keep what we love relevant.

    I am interested to get advice from practicing teachers like yourself on the practicality of the ideas I am researching in a real classroom.
    Check out my blog at:
    https://sarahlainemredding.wordpress.com/

    I look forward to reading your ideas! 🙂

    1. Hello Sarah. Yes, not including technology in your instruction could put everyone at a disadvantage, including you, the teacher, but I think that’s only fair to say in a setting where there’s an actual choice. As I mentioned, some teachers in different places around the world are still not able to access certain resources. Does that make any one of them less of a teacher? Does that mean that their students’ knowledge of the language is any inferior? These are interesting questions to debate.

      Good luck in your training and best wishes with your blog! Thanks for stopping by.🙂

  4. Harvey says:

    Hi Jennifer,

    I know it’s probably been quite some time since you last left your mark on this very post on technology, but what are your thoughts of using class websites and/or blogs in Writing classes? I’ve seen some educators encouraging students to post and write comments a-la-Facebook in lieu of traditional research papers and essays. Some students even get into collaborative writing!

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Harvey,

      I think it’s important for students to feel comfortable writing in different contexts and for different purposes. I don’t think it’s wise to discard the idea of typing a Word document or even the old pen-and-notebook because it seems antiquated to the FB crowd. There’s something to be said for traditional writing. Can an individual organize his or her thoughts and put them on paper to communicate a viewpoint?

      Of course, online platforms have their advantages, too. Blogs encourage revision with the “edit” button. Blogs encourage sharing and willingness to accept feedback. I’m not sure writing on Facebook posts can really replace a research paper, but I see the potential for collaborative writing.

      I’ve invited members on my forum to use the platform for writing practice. Only a few have taken me up on the offer.

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