Thursday, 21st September 2017. As I listened to techno-enthusiasts and techno dissenters from amongst my peers argue the pros and cons of the use of technology, my mind wandered towards its effectiveness in learning pedagogy itself. It is true, as techno dissenters argued, that technology should only be exposed after a certain age, but even in that scenario, what would be the effectiveness of this use?
I decided to surf the net and came across an article on Huffington Post. It described an approach taken by a particular network of schools, called New Tech network high
schools (Huffington Post, 2012), who believed in completely immersing students in technology. They felt it will help them become self-directed learners. From this article I gathered that these schools felt that technology should be used as a facilitator, replacing books and possibly the instructor as well. This reminded me of an experiment conducted by Sugata Mitra in the slums of India, where he had left only a computer with an internet connection. He noticed that the children of these areas had learned to operate the system – on their own. John Holt has also mentioned similar observations regarding the benefits of facilitation, however, without technology intervention. So is it the pedagogy technique of facilitation which promotes self-direction amongst learners or is it the use of technology as a tool as the above school network claimed?
As I read on I was interested to read about the Waldorf School of thought, which focuses on hands-on experiences through music, dance, and writing, as they believe these experiences cultivate a love of learning and help to develop students’ intellectual, emotional and spiritual capacities (Huffington Post, 2012). It was even more interesting to find out that even parents who work for companies like Google and Apple choose to send their children to Waldorf schools. This is because they believe that engagement with teachers and peers is a more effective pedagogical technique. As a huge fan of Maria Montessori, I could not agree more. I had already observed significant changes in my daughter’s behavior after she spent two years in a Montessori environment at a “good-attempt” Montessori school. The school promotes a healthy engagement with peers as well. This strengthened my belief that a technique will always take precedence over a tool.
As I skim through the remaining article, I see that the author has presented both sides of the tech-argument. For the pro-tech side of the theory he mentions one important thing: As children frequently absorb information through technology in their day-to-day lives, they may be more motivated and interested in lessons when technology is used as a teaching tool. I remember I made that point in my admissions interview! Besides this, I can’t really connect with the other pro-tech points, which involve lessening the social gap and an early exposure to technology increases chances to college skills. Is that really true? It is a common observation that technology is actually cutting us off from those in our surroundings. It takes a beep of WhatsApp messenger to disengage us from a live conversation. Also, there is so much information out there regarding researches which indicate that college success depends a lot on life skills like time management, creativity, and social skills. These might be possible through technology but technology is certainly not the only means for achieving them.
As I find myself siding with the tech-dissenters, because I feel socialization and teacher presence is crucial to enhance learning, I ask myself: Is technology really necessary? If proper child development can be achieved through other, more natural means, then why should we be investing in technology in the first place, especially in Pakistan, where the majority of the country is living in poverty? There is a debate whether artificial intelligence would replace teachers in the future, but should that really be a priority? The person who is successful at creating it will certainly be labeled a genius for decades to come, but what purpose will it achieve? Will children be comfortable with a robot teaching them and taking them on field trips?
The only place I believe technology is engaging and can prove to be constructive would be in a flipped classroom setup. As Fullen points out in his Stratosphere, the internet has vast resources which can prove to be beneficial if utilized properly. If a teacher can assign engaging home tasks, which include interactive components like gaming and designing, and then discuss work in class, then I feel this would certainly enhance the learning experience.