Motivation

YouTube videos such as the the one above raise some interesting questions.  I also read/hear about how students are more “engaged” when using technology.  I think we need to realize that the students might not be any more authentically mentally engaged with content when using technology.  Rather, the students are entertained by the media.  There is real danger in believing all things worth doing ought to be entertaining.  I believe, if something is truly worth doing, it will most likely be hard work – even though you might enjoy the end product. 

While students do need the “21st century skills” like using computers and communicating with new technologies, how do they learn to be critical consumers of these new products?  This is the question with which we ought to be wrestling.  Instead, many educators ask, “how can I entertain my students so I can say they were engaged?”  I know this sounds like I am anti-technology, but I do use technology pervasively in my classroom (blogging, messageboards, podcasts, wiki’s, email, googledocs, etc).  Yet, I work to use these technologies not just to use them, rather I try to use the communication technologies to encourage additional collaboration and critical thinking for my students.  In no way do I believe that any of these technologies could take the place of face to face interaction of teachers and students within the classroom.

Learning via technology makes the assumption that learning is autonomous.  Much like the stand and deliver approach, a podcast delivers information, but it does not encourage the deep mental engagement necessary for rich learning.  Furthermore, what happens when a student has a question?  Sure then can type their query into google, but google cannot answer questions like: “have I done my best?” or “why is my marraige failing?”  Students need to be engaged, by teachers, in critical thinking – so they can engage with more important questions than just “what are some facts about _______?”.  School and learning are more than information aquisition.  We need to teach students how to think so they know what to do with the ridiculous amounts of information they are bombarded with on a daily basis.

When using technologies in our classrooms we must ask “what are we teaching?” and “what purpose is the technology serving?”  Oftentimes the implicit message technology inclusion sends is that education is supposed to be fun instead of the hard work that true learning requires.

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4 Responses to Motivation

  1. Matt says:

    Interesting video. When reflecting on my own teaching, I often pose the question of how I can incorporate tech. into my classroom. I almost always come to the same conclusion however. How can I incorporate meaningful technology into my classroom when a) my district can’t afford meaningful technology b) because of a) my students are behind the curve on using it (ie. many of our students struggle finding a web address) and c) my students’ basic skill levels are, on average, a few grade levels behind, so if they don’t understand the most basic concepts (of math in my case) how do I engage them in higher level, critical thinking? To me it seems like sending someone on a Shakespeare webquest when they don’t even know their ABCs.

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    • jerridkruse says:

      Matt, I definitely feel your pain. My students could be described similarly (i teach in a very diverse district: culturally, economically and skill level) one of the things we are working on as a team is basic facts (ie: 4 + 5 and how to spell words correctly). One problem I have run into using technology is students who are unable to log in to accounts due to forgetting passwords, etc. Fortunately, my content area is not as “skill-based” so I have some more freedom with what I do/teach. I think this video was produced by someone in higher education who does not really understand what teaching really is. The problem with these kinds of videos is that while they raise some important issues, they leave more important ones out. Then, when parents, students or administrators see them, they demand more technology in the classroom, even though the technology-methods may not be what is best for the students or the specific content. My main point is that when using any strategy or materials in the classroom, we need to continually ask if we are really engaging the students with learning the content or are we just entertaining them so we “think” they are learning because they “pay attention”. Thanks for the comment, I hope to see you on here often!

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  2. Matt says:

    I understand and agree with your point on the video and its lack of realistic application. I am constantly striving to find ways to engage my students in meaningful ways. There is just a sea of buzz words and philosophies to sort through and since my school has been on the SINA list I am feeling a lot of pressure to work miracles in my classroom. The top concerns seem to be (in no particular order):
    1. To what extent are the things I do research based?
    2. How am I utilizing homework? Is it a true reflection of the learning?
    3. How do I motivate students that couldn’t care less?
    4. Am I teaching “21st Century Skills?”
    5. How does my current curriculum fit into the Iowa Core and what adjustments are necessary to align?

    Sorry if that was mostly off the topic of the usefulness of technology vs. entertainment value but that was what was on my mind. :)

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  3. Sarah B. says:

    I don’t like that video. Simply employing in a school setting a medium that kids use for entertainment does not mean that kids will find that activity to be more meaningful. I love reading, but that certainly doesn’t mean that I find all assignments involving reading to be meaningful. Kids aren’t stupid – they aren’t going to be duped into thinking an assignment is more meaningful just because they get to use technology to do it. It is still the content and the connections they make to that content that make learning meaningful (or not). I think of it in personal terms by considering Wii Fit. I love Wii Fit. It is kind of exercising… kind of… but I am engaged and I continue to do it because I am entertained. Liking the form the “exercise” takes doesn’t make it more effective, it just makes it more fun. It doesn’t replace weights or cardio, and if I acted like it did, then playing Wii Fit would be doing me a disservice. I think it is the same with technology in learning. If we assume a student will be more engaged with deep learning simply because they get to use a medium they also employ for entertainment purposes, we do students a disservice.

    In order to provide a socially responsible, culturally relevant, and well-balanced education, technology needs to be included. That being said, I think the swift technological development over the past few years has educators and administrators struggling to effectively incorporate technology into the curriculum. I feel like the focus is on acquiring the technology, and the attitude is “if you have it, use it!” while there is little emphasis on how to effectively incorporate that technology into the learning process, as if the technology itself is an all-inclusive educational experience. As someone who literally just completed teacher education, I know firsthand that new teachers are encouraged to use technology for technology’s sake. i.e., download lessons to use on the whiteboard instead of designing your own lesson around a big idea – “kids respond better to interacting with technology”; mandatory inclusion of the world wide web in 6 of 10 lessons in a unit; and my tech class? Please – everything can and should be done on the computer. Dangerous philosophy, if you ask me.

    Finally, I think a lot of us lose sight of the fact that the internet is a tool and a resource – not a replacement for teaching or a cure-all for problems in teaching. Using technology as a substitute for authentic, effective teaching treats knowledge as something that can be transmitted and ignores the premises of constructivism – like you said Jerrid, you can Google for facts, but not for help in developing deep, meaningful thinking. Technology needs to be taught as a skill, but it also needs to be sensibly and effectively incorporated into the curriculum. We need to interpret it and use it in light of its strengths and its weaknesses.

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