Friday, February 6, 2015

Technology: A New Outlook

This week in class, as with many other weeks this semester (and the previous ones too) our class discussion has turned into a conversation and even somewhat of a debate about the benefits and conflicts of technology in education.  The great thing about these debates is that everyone contributes and we all have varying opinions. 
One specific struggle that continually comes up and we face more and more each day, as math educators, is the challenging question:
“When should and should I not use technology?”
If anyone is looking for the answer, our class is not the place to find it.  However, we have learned new ways to consider the use of technology.  Through research, class discussions, evaluations of other teachers, and even self-reflection, we have learned which questions to ask ourselves before choosing to use technology.  For some people these questions come easier than for others, as do the answers.  Yet, for some of us, knowing the right questions to ask and the most effective ways to evaluate technology still doesn't make the decision easy enough!
We grew up in a time that was only beginning to embrace technology – much of which didn't reach our middle or high schools.  The people who taught us used little or no technology when giving us lessons.  Yet, soon enough we all will be earning a college degree.  So, we learned just fine without technology – shouldn't students be able to do that now?
On one hand, we have a negative outlook on technology from bad experiences both in secondary schools and college.  Many of us have had teachers that ineffectively use Web Assign, PowerPoint, and online grading/lessons.  Many of us have even misused technology as students – graphing calculators, Wolfram Alpha, Ask.com, and many others.  We fear that our students will misuse these things in the same way or even worse – that we will ineffectively use technology in our classrooms.  These concerns drive much of our dislike for technology – and maybe rightfully so, but what our class is realizing is that technology is a necessity in the world today, and it’s not going anywhere.
We are learning to embrace technology and that instead of asking, “Why do I have to use technology today?” we should ask, “How can technology enhance learning today?”  We have come to realize that technology not only helps students to dive deeper into the content, but can help students think abstractly and visually, making students stronger thinkers and problem solvers, and making us better teachers.
Although we all can think of many reasons not to use technology and most of my class will still side against it, we are beginning to open our eyes and see the possibilities of our classroom of the future – technology and all.