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.