Moving at the Speed of Creativity by Wesley Fryer

Interactive technology access does not guarantee good teaching and learning

I had an interaction with a parent today which was simultaneously sad, eye opening, and challenging.

Interactive white board

Essentially, the parent said they wanted an interactive white board (IWB) and an audience response / electronic response system in their child’s classroom, so their child and peers would be more engaged in learning and enjoy their time in the classroom more. The parent explained, “Kids are into technology.”

While it certainly is true “kids are into technology” today, it is a fallacy that providing these technologies to teachers in the classroom will automatically result in better learning experiences for students. This is well supported by educational research, and is something I likely say frequently in presentations, but it still seems to be a common perception among parents. I suppose this perception accounts for the high levels of spending we see in our schools today for IWBs and clicker systems.

I would much rather be in a classroom or have my own children in a classroom in which the teacher knows how to facilitate lessons where students are ACTIVE rather than PASSIVE, being challenged to think DEEPLY and CRITICALLY about ideas and issues rather than being simply expected to consume information– even if it is in multimedia formats. Perhaps SMU Dean Jose Bowen has it right: We should challenge teachers to “teach naked.” Content delivery has more powerful possibilities today than ever before, so our face to face learning opportunities in schools should be richer with more interaction than ever. Sadly, that is frequently not the case.

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15 responses to “Interactive technology access does not guarantee good teaching and learning”

  1. Lizzie205 Avatar

    I completely agree– whereas I believe that technology has definitely come to be a big part of the education system, I don’t think that it is as important to have good technology then it is to have a teacher that knows how to the content. Id rather have a teacher that knew how to get me interest in a subject, no matter how they did it, than a teacher with a lot of fancy equipment. Just because I have a new piece of technology in front of me doesn’t mean that I am going to pay attention more or be more involved.

  2. Ethan Waldman Avatar

    Thanks for the great article. I am an eLearning Tech. consultant in a corporate setting, and we face the same challenges. Just replace “parent” with “HR manager” and “child” with “learner”. We are too often being pushed to adopt technology for technology’s sake- and the real important point that people miss is that techy gadgets are not going to improve boring learning materials that weren’t designed well. Even more important for stand-and-deliver training- flashy gadgets are not going to improve anyone’s presentation skills.

  3. Amber Avatar

    I would have to agree. I do think technology is very important and it can help classrooms do things they could do before, like to on virtual field trips. I do think that a teacher should be able to engage the children with out technology but I also believe that it helps. Now most technology is really expensive and should only be added if it is really going to be put to use.

  4. […] Here’s Fryer’s blog post appropriately called  Interactive technology access does not guarantee good teaching and learning […]

  5. Jonathan Wylie Avatar

    You can have the tools, but if they are not enhancing the teaching and learning in the classroom, then you shouldn’t use them. There is a time and a place for all things. I know that the parents are well meaning, and who wouldn’t turn down the opportunity to have an IWB in their classroom, but as you said, it does not guarantee a better educational experience.

  6. Adrienne Avatar

    Wes, I’m so glad you mentioned the research. It’s flabbergasting that people actually don’t believe you (often parents) when you tell them that it’s not about the technology — that the interactive tech does not mean learning will happen. Sure, it might engage the kids a bit more, but that is not a substitute for learning. I had always known about recent (as in the last 10 years) research in this area, but having just started my grad program — and thus knee-deep in readings — I learned this week that this phenomenon has existed basically since modern education began in the 1900s. That is, despite increased access to technology, learning has not improved. Why? I suspect it has to do with a bulk of other factors, one of which is (ta-da!) effective pedagogical practices. We can use as many shiny tools with all the bells and whistles we want, but they are nothing but fancy thingamabobs without a good teacher-facilitator.

  7. wmchamberlain Avatar

    As long as we allow high-stakes testing to determine our school’s worth we will forever fight against using technology as a new way to do drill and skill lessons. I see too many teachers use and IWB as a very expensive worksheet. Change won’t happen until our schools’ priorities change from learning facts to learning how to think and learn.

  8. Ben Wildeboer Avatar

    I agree with Wes & much of what the commenters have already said: Technology in the classroom does not equal effective instruction.

    However, I do feel that “it” is about the technology. There is no doubt that there are highly effective teachers who don’t use any computer-based technology. I feel that those making decisions about what technologies to use and how to use them need to look at how new technologies can make effective instruction more effective. It is about the technology. It’s about how that technology makes school better, not how it makes education shinier and fancier.

  9. Adrienne Avatar

    @Ben – it is only about the technology inasmuch as it is about every other resource. The tech is just another resource, just like textbooks, colored paper, or a telephone. I don’t think that it’s about how new technologies can make effective instruction more effective. To me that sounds like looking at technology and trying to “fit” it into the learning. I see it instead as, “How can I be an effective educator and facilitator, using technology when appropriate to learning goals?” If I am using an IWB only because “the kids are into technology” and well, the IWB can *do* more than my regular WB, those are not reasons that are connected to learning.

    The problem is when we have learning outcomes (curriculum) that are objectivist-based and content-driven — that is, based on principles that are not grounded in constructivism and connectivism. In cases like those — and indeed, that is many districts/schools — then the technology is almost always used only in ways to replace what was there before, rather than for learners to construct their own meaning. However, I would argue that it’s then still not about the technology — it’s about the curriculum and perhaps even the school’s/district’s philosophy.

  10. Samatha Avatar

    What Dean Bowen said in this video was very interesting. He mentioned PowerPoints being the worst piece of technology to be used in the classroom. This first struck me in that I use PowerPoints everyday in my class. I have the students come in 3-4 times a week. The students spend time copying what I’ve projected onto the board and then I go over the information. About 1-2 days a week is spent conducting lab investigations and I find that this is often not enough time to show how what I’d “lectured” is applied in the real world. Our school frowned upon the use of textbooks in the classroom and encourages project based learning, hands on activities daily. Reflecting on what Dean Bowen said, I realized that I was simply “making my own textbook” for the students to copy. If I can get my lectures and notes online (which I’ve already started doing) and have the students come to class prepared and ready to discuss/work on what was discussed in the lectures, I would be able to spend ALL of the time in the classroom on hands-on activities and laboratory investigations. I hope that this is what my classes will be like in the future. The only thing I am worried about is that my students will not come prepared to class. I teach in a public high school in the Bronx and many of my students do not have access to the internet. But if I could plan in advance, make podcasts of my lectures to go with the powerpoints, find/make videos to enhance these presentations, then I could put them on CDs/DVDs to give the students earlier on. Having read this blog and seen this video clip has been truly inspiring for me! Thanks for sharing!

  11. Wesley Fryer Avatar

    Samatha: I’m so glad you found Dean Bowen’s ideas and proposals inspiring. Be share to also check out the video “Educational Podcasting in Woodland Park Colorado,” in which teachers are doing a similar “flip” of homework activities and lecture prep. The key to providing accessibility for students, when it comes to digital resources, is 1:1 computing. We need to provide ALL our students with access to portable, wireless computing devices so they can not only readily access / download content, but also remix those ideas as assignments and assessments.

  12. […] my September 23rd post, “Interactive technology access does not guarantee good teaching and learning,” for more elaboration on why this is not the case. Even better, see Dr. Jon Becker’s five part […]

  13. judy Avatar

    As an educationalist, I have often wondered what is more important? ‘what’ students should learn or ‘how’ they learn. Basics needs to be learned, there is no question about it. This is taught in the school and colleges. In addition, we need to teach the student the process of learning also. The chinese proverb, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” is very apt in explaining this. We need to help our students to develop an effective learning process and this will increase ‘what’ the students are learning.I am currently looking to create an collaborative environment students and teachers. To motivate a student to learn, we have to get him to like to learn.To get his interest we have to implement innovative learning processes in his learning routine like using flash cards , videos and photos to make learning more of a fun activity,in this way the child will be interested in learning and will memorize details also easily.

  14. […] task, but they do not implicitly demand effort of our mental processes. It is reminiscent also of this conversation on Wes Freyer’s blog, about how simply having the technology does not mean that students are […]

  15. Teach235 Avatar

    Technology can only help when there is a need for it. If the need is only to attract the kids’ attention, then there is clearly somthing wrong. But if the need is to make the teaching more effective, then, by all means, do it. The need for this kind of technology should be judged by the teacher on an individual basis, not by the parents or the students, or, even the school.