Resistance is Futile — Unhealthy Impacts of Digital Technology

There is no denying that digital technology has changed the way our world works and has impacted how we conduct our daily lives.  We all spend countless hours in front of screens for both work and entertainment and much of our daily activity is shaped, monitored and shared with the world through technology.  It has become an integral component of our social interactions and for many, our health and wellness.  

screen time –  Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks via Compfight cc

The second debate in our class this week centred around whether or not all of this technology use is making our kids healthy or unhealthy.  Once again, there were great arguments made on both sides of of the debate, but this time I feel like I am more convinced of one side than the other.  Of course there are many ways that technology can, if used correctly and intentionally, be an agent for positive change to our health and wellness, but I don’t think that it inherently does so.  Not everyone uses technology in ways that aid in their health and the negative impacts that the use of digital technology has on our brain development and function as well as our physical health pushes me to fall more to the side of agreeing with the debate statement.

The group arguing in favour of this statement provided us with resources to support the idea that technology is a contributor to negative issues related to physical, social and mental well-being.   They outlined numerous ways that technology is detrimental to all of these areas.  The youtube video “5 Crazy Ways Social Media is Changing your Brain Right Now” describes ways that social media and technology is actually changing the way that our brains work.  The mention of “Phantom Vibration Syndrome,” made me do a double-take, as I’m confidant that this is something that happens to me.  I hadn’t really thought about it before, but the idea that it is a real phenomenon, experienced by a large number of people is pretty interesting (and perhaps alarming?”).  

Phantom Vibration Syndrome — LINK

The Huffington Post article, “Sneaky Ways that Technology is Messing with your Body and Mind,” also proved to be a little scary.  As a person who does not typically get enough sleep and has back issues, I wonder how much technology plays into this.  The vast list of negative health impacts that are (even potentially) attributed to technology use is hard to ignore.

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The disagree side’s opening statement provided us with many ways that technology can be of benefit to our physical, emotional, social and intellectual health.  The video suggested that technology can aid in our physical well-being through fitness apps and technology like fitbits and with our emotional health by providing connectivity and support in online communities, platforms for activism, self-appreciation and raising awareness about mental health.          

                                            Photo Credit: Nicola since 1972 via Compfight cc                          

The group’s video also suggest that social networking and the ability to keep connected aid in our social health and that there are multiple opportunities with technology to improve our intellectual well-being.  While all of these opportunities have merit and provide potential for improved overall health, they do not negate some of the detrimental impacts that technology can have.  In the recommended readings from the disagree side, were directed to an article titled “Determining the Effects of Technology on Children,” that explores both the positive and negative impacts of technology on children.  We were advised to only read pages 1-15, which coincidentally describe the positive impacts of technology, while if one continues reading, the article eventually gets to a section that is aptly titled “Health Related Issues,” that delves into the negative impacts of technology on children’s health.  So even the resource intended to provide insight into how technology is NOT making children unhealthy describes how technology IS making them unhealthy!  
The argument can be made that it is not the technology itself that is harmful or beneficial for students’ health, but rather it is their habits and how they use it that is the real culprit.  However, because as a society, our lives are so technologically driven, I believe that, given the manner in which we use it, technology is indeed making our kids unhealthy.  Now, as Kristina E. Hatch’s article suggests, ”naming technology as either good or bad will not solve the issue” (p. 4).  The reality is that digital technology is so intertwined our our current social fabric that we cannot simply say that because it is making our youth (and us) unhealthy we should stop using it.  This is next to impossible because so much of our world has become dependent on technology  The disagree group’s opening video, said, “why resist technology — instead teach HOW to use it.” I would go further with this to suggest that we CANNOT resist technology — it is here and, short of some sort of apocalyptic event, will continue to develop and have a greater and greater impact on our lives.  Therefore, our best course of action is to take advantage of the opportunities that technology can provide for improved health and work to make sure that the benefit outweighs the harm.

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A View from a Fence Sitter – Should Schools Teach Googleable Content?

In a world where Google has become an almost inextricable component of our society, impacting how we communicate, how we learn and in a remarkable way, the way our daily lives operate, it is undeniable that the information supergiant has had a significant impact on education.  

 

google world

Google World  LINK

The first of this week’s debates explored the statement “School should not be teaching anything that can be googled.”  This was an interesting conversation that left me with the feeling that, once again, my opinion balances quite steadily on the fence between the two sides.

 

 Photo Credit: Sanctu via Compfight cc

Should we, as educators, not bother teaching facts and information that a student could easily find online?  Perhaps in some instances we don’t need to.  For example, being able to recall specific dates and names associated with the history of the Number Treaties in the Canadian West–which could easily be found online– may not be as useful in our students lives as having an understanding of the long term societal impacts of them. I would argue that the year that Treaty 4 was signed and who was present matters significantly less than what the Treaty means for everyone that lives in the area.  Yet, is there a place for some of this rote memorization?  Are there scenarios in our students’ lives when they may need to be able to recall some specific information?   Absolutely.   As a construction teacher, I see the benefit in students knowing that a 2×4 is 3 ½ inches wide and  understanding how to add, subtract and convert fractions while we plan and complete projects.  Yes, one could pull out their phone and look up a conversion chart or find a YouTube video on how to add fractions together to figure out what the combined total length should be, or google the width of a 2×4… but it is not practical. Some knowledge and skills are just more useful to have without relying on Google.  Being able to just add 1/16” to ⅝” or know that the width of a 2×4 is not going to add 4” to the end of your wall saves time.

Width of 2x4

Photo by Ian Temple

Going into the debate and thinking about my own teaching practice, the students that I have worked with and the course I have taught gave me numerous examples that could be used as arguments for either side of the debate.  The articles and information shared by the debate groups–both of whom did a great job– served to provide me with some research based reasoning to support both sides and to validate my examples. Neither group pulled me to be a hard supporter of either side.  

Both sides of the debate seemed to emphasize that the use of google needed to approached with caution for a few reasons.  The agree side shared a video with us about how Google has impacted how our students think and that it is actually changing how our brains function.  The article they shared about How Google Impacts The Way Students Think, suggests that “it creates the illusion that answers are always within reach, even when they are not” but that “if users can Google answers to the questions they’re given, they’re likely terrible questions.”  They also shared  a TedTalk by Ramsey Musallam that served to inspire us as educators to disregard googleable content so that we might no longer just fill “the simple role as dissemination of content and embrace a new paradigm as cultivators of curiosity and inquiry [so that] we just might bring a little bit more meaning to their school day and spark their imaginations.”  This group seemed to be trying to emphasize that if we teach content that can be googled, we are not teaching our students to be critical thinkers or problem solvers.

The disagree side emphasized some of the practical reasons for teaching content that students could google.  Their first article, When Rote Learning Makes Sense,  suggested that given that according to Bloom’s Taxonomy, “effective knowledge acquisition has to come first” and that “thinkers must have knowledge, facts, data or information in their brains to combine into something new, or with which to judge relative importance or value.”  Another article that they shared,  In the Age of Google, should Schools Teach Memorization Skills, reinforced my example of needing to recall information and skills in the woodshop (as well as in other scenarios), suggesting that students will not always have access to Google, or that it may not be practical to use it.
As with many questions about best practice in education, the debate over whether school should not be teaching anything that can be googled, does not have an evident answer.  The arguments for both sides are valid.   If we were to replace the word “anything” with “some things,” I would emphatically nod my head in agreement.   Is there googleable information taught in schools that is unnecessary for our students’ education?  Absolutely.  However, there are numerous instances in which information that can easily be found online is better suited to be taught and memorized so students can have a true understanding of it and it can be recalled and put to use in a practical, meaningful way.

star trek nod

star trek nod  – LINK

Does Ed.Tech. Enhance Learning or Waste Time?

After this past week’s debate about whether technology in the classroom enhances learning or not, my head was swirling.   With this being the first online debate that I’ve been experienced, there was a lot to keep up with.  Between conversations in the Zoom Room, the side chat that was going on and checking out the links that my fellow students, I was left feeling a little like this.

Confused Urkel       LINK

Going into this class, I felt that technology in the classroom does, of course enhance learning.  If it didn’t, why would I be taking this course?  The disagree team seemed to have been given a rather difficult task, trying to convince us all that technology in the classroom does not improve the education of our students.  After the team arguing for the stance that EdTech is beneficial shared their opening video and presented their argument, I felt confident that I was right — that technology in the classroom does enhance learning.

Then the disagree team presented their argument.  I found myself agreeing with their points and wondering whether my initial stance was accurate.    I began thinking about the numerous roadblocks that I’ve hit and the headaches I’ve endured while attempting to integrate various technology into my classes.  We’ve all experienced students forgetting their passwords,  not having access to enough laptops, the wifi not working, etc.  The monetary costs of providing access to tech can be astronomical and this group got me wondering — is it worth it?

I’ve spent time this week considering how I have integrated technology in my own classroom — how sometimes it has proved helpful and other times it has not.  Why is this?  I think that the SAMR model provides a little insight.

SAMR Coffee                      LINK

When integrating technology at the substitution level, it is hard to see much benefit for my students.  If some new tech is thrown into the mix but the task itself has not changed, all that has really happened is adding potential for frustration because there is more that could go wrong.   Why mess around with getting all of your students logged into some new program when completing a task in a more traditional way is more efficient and effective?  Reflecting on my teaching, the times that the integration of technology has not seemed all that beneficial seems to have been instances where I was at the substitution level.

However, on the occasions where I have moved beyond substitution, and have been able to significantly redesign a task using technology, it seemed much more beneficial.    The integration of technology needs to be meaningful and be used for a reason in order to have a positive impact.  As Doris Wells-Papanek states in her  article, The Purposeful Integration of ‘Technology’ into Teaching and Learning Best Practices, “there is no point in requiring students to engage in digital activities unless the tools serve as purposeful vehicles of learning and are effectively integrated into a plan.”   AT (assistive technology) is a great example of truly purposeful integration of technology into classrooms — if technology is used in the classroom to help students with learning disabilities or other difficulties to achieve, by redesigning a task (modification) or making something possible for them that may have been inconceivable without the technology (redefinition),  then the technology has clearly been able to enhance their learning.

So if it is used with purpose, technology can enhance learning in a classroom.  Why then did the debate group opposing this idea garner so much support from our class?  Were they just really convincing or did their argument have merit?  Upon further contemplation, their arguments were accurate — technology can be expensive, it can be difficult to use, wrought with issues, and can cause distraction.    However, these issues do not negate the potential for educational benefit of technology.  Rather, they outline some of the many issues of implementation of it.  One of the articles used to support this side of the debate, The Missing Link in Educational Technology: Trained Teachers, suggests that “[e]ducational technology is not, and never will be, transformative on its own – it requires teachers who can integrate technology into the curriculum and use it to improve student learning” (p. 7).    To me this really just suggests that it is difficult to integrate technology on a meaningful, tranformative level without adequate support and training and is not proof that it does not enhance learning.

When we refer to integrating technology into our classrooms, we are referring typically to newer technology — personal devices, online apps and social networks, class websites and organizational tools like google drive.   Depending on context, educational technology can include other tools that we take for granted — pencils, chalkboards, textbooks and perhaps even school buildings themselves –tools that at one time may have evoked skepticism about whether they actually enhance learning.

Chalkboard  –   Photo Credit: quinn.anya via Compfight cc

In the TED Talk video, A different way to think about technology in education: Greg Toppo at TEDxAshburn,  Greg Toppo quotes Larry Cuban as saying that ed tech is “Any device available to teachers for use in instructing students in a more efficient and stimulating manner than the sole use of the teacher’s voices.” This talk, along with other resources we’ve looked at this week emphasize that technology has always existed in education and often has received criticism before being accepted as standard practice.  Although we can use this as an argument that current technologies are in the same category and that with time, the critics will be proven wrong and these technologies will become the norm, this is not necessarily true.  Just because something is new does not mean that is inherently beneficial.  Using technology just for the sake of using it does not create any meaningful change or benefit for students (remember the substitution level in SAMR?).  As my classmate Stephanie Pipke-Painchaud states, it is not the technology itself that enhances learning, but “it’s how we use it that impacts our learning and the experiences of others around us.”

So… where am I at after last week’s debate and resources, my own readings and reflection and looking at what some of my fellow students have said?   I really feel that this is not a black and white issue.   I went into last week with the mindset that technology undoubtedly enhances learning and left that evening questioning this stance a bit.   I think that at this point I am more of the opinion that technology in the classroom does not inherently improve learning, but rather that it provides the opportunity for enhanced learning if implemented purposefully.  The digital world is here to stay.  Our learners live in a world very different than the one that we grew up in and we need to adjust our teaching accordingly.    As stated in 5 Ways Digital Tools Are Transforming the Education Space,  “[a]mbitious, successful teaching and learning have become inherently intertwined with the digital world. Educators must be able to develop and enact rigorous, relevant instructional methods and formats while using digital tools effectively to underpin their instruction.”

 

 

 

 

Oh, hey! It’s me — Ian!

This is my first EdTech class.  I might even go so far as to admit that it is also my first masters class.  So far, so good–I think Tuesday night got me hooked.

As a  construction teacher, I don’t really integrate much EdTech into my class.  In fact, This is luddite laptop is about as high-tech as things get in the shop… just kidding (also, would someone actually pay that much for that thing?)  I am a believer in the benefits of technology in the classroom and integrate it whenevphoto of hammer wood & nailser possible.  Recently, I’ve been into using google classroom as a component of most of my construction classes.  The construction classes that I teach are often project classes integrated with other courses, like one I taught last year that combined Construction 10, ELA A10 and Foundations of Math 10, so there is ample opportunity for the use of educational technology, especially for keeping students organized.

Photo Credit: adam THEO via Compfight cc
In addition to being the construction teacher at Scott Collegiate, my position also includes being the the school-based facilitator for Following Their Voices, where I work with other teachers to analyze and develop our teaching practice to help increase First Nations, Metis and Inuit student success rates.    I’m always on the lookout for ideas and resources to share with the staff at my school and I think that I might get a few out of this course.

So what  else should I tell you about who I am?  I am a father of a wonderful young lady named Elizah-Jayne.  She’s five,  just finishing up Kindergarten and likes to keep me busy.  But who am I kidding —  I keep myself pretty busy.  I’ve got a second job as a bartender, am a bit of a night owl, am pretty much always working on some renovation in my 100 year old house and I sit on a few different boards and committees.  I like to travel when I’ve got time and money and have lived all over Canada.  My partner’s name is Allison and we recently got a Devon Rex and named him Leonard Nimoy.    Some might consider him to be a cat.

photo of leonard the devon rex

I look forward to connecting with and learning from all of you over the next few weeks.   I’m really excited about this class and I promise I will try not to fill every post with pictures of woodworking and cats.  Please feel free to connect with me on twitter @MrIanTemple