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I am wary of “devices” in the classroom. I am not a Luddite. I’m a teacher of many years experience. I regard “devices” as a tool,  not an obligatory method of education.

My school is an “iPad” school. This was introduced as a teaching tool at the junior level a number of years ago. It was trumpeted as a massive innovation. I have no issue with devices as a means of accessing information and assisting learning. But I do have concerns about devices as a primary means of pedagogy. Pedagogy is a fancy word for teaching methods.

My first concern about “devices”  is the lack of long term academic research on the effectiveness of devices as a teaching tool. The educational literature is actually sparse in how effective the use of devices are in improving educational outcomes for students. It’s just too recent.

Another concern is social. Most young people spend an inordinate time on their devices. That is their primary focus these days. This is a very recent phenomenon. It has become a social addiction for many.

To encourage a continuation of this trend in the classroom feels bizarre. I want my students to engage with me and other students in a direct way. I know my subject, that’s  my job.  I want discussion. I want debate. I teach a subject which is values based despite its claims to objectivity. There are no right answers. Economics is a form of creative discourse. The answers aren’t on the web. I want students to engage on a personal level. Not via a device. That’s what real life is largely about.

A very distracted form of human interaction has evolved in the past decade. It’s on display in cafes, restaurants, pubs and other social venues. The device often dominates. I don’t want that in my classroom.

So I have banned the use of devices in my classroom. Strangely I have met with little protest. The students seem to find it somehow novel and different.

I want to choose how I teach my students. I want to engage directly. This is likely against school policy. But if I was told how often I was required to use the photocopier I would find that bizarre and offensive. Classroom teaching is largely about engagement. I have no interest in abdicating that role
to a device or the dodgy rantings  of an uninformed moron  on the Internet. I can do that myself.  That’s what I am paid for.

If I want my students to research something I get them to pull out their devices. Otherwise their primary device is a 500 year old piece of technology called an exercise book. I provide that for them,  since their parents forked out a lot of money for their devices.

We have enthusiastically embraced the cult of technology in education. What I have noticed in that short time is the decline in writing skills. I have also
noticed a decline  in conversational and debating skills. Students often prefer their devices to direct interaction. That’s really sad.  I have had students comment that my teaching approach is weird compared to what they are used to. I don’t find it weird. I want a discussion. I want a debate. I want signs of human life. A direct engagement.

I enjoy the guys I teach. I am not a technophobic Luddite. But I am aware that requiring the constant use of devices in the classroom is not backed by long term educational research. My gut feeling is that requiring the constant use of devices in the classroom is not a proven positive. It can invite lazy teaching and a lack of real engagement by students.

What seems bright and new is not always better. The old overhead projector has often been replaced by the lazy click of a mouse driving a PowerPoint. Students often seek  distraction from dull curriculum  and devices provide an ample oppornity.

Humans  are essentially social animals and a well functioning classroom teaches social skills and positive interactions on an immediate level, not via a device. My classes are not always well functioning. But I generally enjoy interacting directly with my students and watching them interact with each other.

A large element of Education Is about social interactions. Otherwise schools would have been replaced long ago by an old technology called “books”. Everyone would have stayed at  home and learned by reading. The fact this never eventuated confirms the importance of human interaction in teaching and learning.

Peter Lyons teaches Economics in an old fashioned way at Saint Peter’s College in Epsom.

5 COMMENTS

  1. Excellent perspective on a growing issue. A lot of room for good discussion around points raised. Technology has a place, but can not be a substitute for good teaching, social interaction and scaffolded learning.

  2. Well,said! I too dislike seeing that our “learners” are unable to simply Listen and Think then offer a well thought out reply. At concerts, services, … any gathering, people seem to be unable to concentrate on the spoken word.

  3. I absolutely agree. Students are getting more than the recommended daily amount of screen time outside of school. It’s time for them to disconnect from devices and interact with each other. I teach special needs students and also find that there is too much pressure to put students on a device for part of their school day. I leave all my class devices in the cupboard most of the time. In fact they are probably all flat as they haven’t been used since they had a reliever when I last went to PD!

  4. “Another concern is social. Most young people spend an inordinate time on their devices. That is their primary focus these days. This is a very recent phenomenon. It has become a social addiction for many.”

    Sorry, but this is a sweeping generalisation, backed up by no actual evidence. You seem to be picking up on media articles and concluding they are fact. I get your message on using tech constructively. That is a good one.

    However, banning the use of tech solves nothing (if there was an issue). And you also seem to assume that tech means no human interaction. This is also, incorrect. The kids you suggest are spending an inordinate amount of time on their devices, tend to be interacting with their friends. The mechanisms for this are just via tech. Do we want this to be the sum total of human interaction? Of course not, but let’s now throw the baby out with the bath water.

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