The Big Debate: Does Technology Enhance Learning?

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Research, preparation, practice… these are all things that took place before our Great EdTech Debate.

Our task was to debate the argument that technology in the classroom enhances learning. My partner, Nancy, and I knew that we had our work cut out for us. We were up against Matt and Trevor, both great at using humour, wit, and research to defend their argument. Since we knew that they would make a strong argument against technology in the classroom, we knew that we needed to captivate our audience in an engaging, long lasting way with our opening argument video.

We both previously watched the video about movie making by Mike Wesch called: “How the Best EduTubers Make Super-Engaging Content”… a video that’s well worth the watch. What we took away and wanted to apply to our own debate video was that people are more engaged when a story is told. Better yet, a human story about challenge, change, and triumph. What better way to tell a “hero’s journey” than what I am personally going through right now… a ruptured achilles injury amidst a global pandemic. Luckily, I have been video-documenting my journey all the way from the start, so I could use all of the authentic, personal footage and monologue clips that I’ve been creating along the way.

Our goal was to show the human side to the debate argument. Yes, technology enhances learning in so many meaningful ways when you are in the classroom, but what happens when the classroom is taken away? In my personal recovery journey, I was dependent on technology for connection. Our need for connection through technology is something that we are collectively going through as a society during a time of physical distance, so we wanted to make our argument relatable and personal. We also wanted to connect our argument to the 4 C’s in 21st Century Learning: Critical Thinking, Communication, Collaboration, and Creativity. Technology allows all of these skills to not only happen, but thrive. Another gift that technology gives us is connection, which we would argue is the 5th C in learning. Connection is critical for life-long learning, and technology is what makes connection accessible, especially in times of distance. I also appreciated how Jacquie said that she would add curiosity as the 5th C... another valuable skill in learning.

Along with putting a lot of time and preparation into our opening argument video, we did a lot of research on the topic of technology in the classroom. One of the best resources we found was from George Couros: The Myths of Technology Series. He talks about some of the common misconceptions about using technology and how it’s important to “see technology with a different lens.” Some of the important points that he made were:

1. “Engagement shouldn’t be our only goal. We need to use technology to empower students so that they feel like they can make a difference.”

Technology gives students the opportunity for leadership. We need educators to use technology in meaningful ways rather than passively using it to fill up time.

2. “We have to start thinking about different approaches to keep our kids safe in such a networked world.”

The ability to talk to others around the world through social media and technology creates a sense of belonging. We need to think of new ways to model safe behaviour with technology, rather than simply taking it away.

3. “What some teachers have done is use technology to actually give students a voice and options that they didn’t have before.”

We have the opportunity to use technology as a way to enhance face-to-face interactions and make them more meaningful. We can learn more about people, connect more frequently, and share our voices online.

4. “When we now carry the information (way more information than could ever be stored in books in a library) in our pocket, we have to teach our students to discern what is credible information, while also giving them opportunities to do something with that information.  A library in a school would never be seen as a detriment to knowledge; neither should the vast library on our phone.”

It’s important that we shift from teaching students what to think to how to think, and technology helps us do that. When we come alongside students as they navigate the digital world, we can help them develop critical thinking skills so that they can use technology in positive ways.

The more that I prepared for this project and learned about the topic, the more I was convinced that technology enhances learning. However, the debate format helped me consider both sides of the argument and helped me wrestle with some of the issues that arise with technology. Having the opportunity to rebuttal the opening arguments and have an open debate with the rest of my class allowed me to think on my toes and it gave me a unique opportunity for learning. In the end, the experience was enlightening, engaging, and so entertaining. As you continue to explore where you stand on the topic of technology in learning, hopefully our video can help you with the process. Enjoy!

-Amanda

10 thoughts on “The Big Debate: Does Technology Enhance Learning?

    1. Thanks for the kind words! It was very nerve-wracking to put myself out there and think on the spot, but it taught me a lot. Looking forward to the rest of the debates!

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  1. I watched Mike Wesch’s video too, and thought the idea of the Hero’s Journey would be perfect for the Summary of Learning – but it didn’t even occur to me to use the strategy for the debate! Your guys’ video did exactly what it was supposed to – and providing personal context for your points made it a really tough job for the opposition to respond – I am really glad I was not them! Although their style was also amazing hah!

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    1. Thanks, Victoria! It was a lot of fun to make the video and I learned a lot of new skills in the process. It was hard to be up against Matt and Trevor because they are so good at making others think… and laugh too 🙂 Thanks for your engagement during the debate and for your encouragement!

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  2. I just wanted to say thank you for a great debate! I appreciated your approach of focusing on the human side. As an educator, your relationships with your kiddos becomes so strong, and that 5th C (connection) that you and Nancy introduced really brought those relationships, and that need to….well, connect, to the forefront. Sometimes technology can seem so robotic, or it feels like it loses that connection piece because you are looking into a screen rather than at a person. So it was really refreshing to see it used for such a compassionate way. Great work all around!

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    1. Thanks for your encouragement! I’m glad that our approach made you appreciate the role that technology can have in relationship-building and connection. The debate definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone, but the experience was so valuable.

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  3. It was a great experience to work with you as my partner for this debate assignment. Thank you for your willingness to share your story and for your creativity and commitment to this project. You are a STAR Amanda. Keep shining brightly!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great presentation! Thank you for sharing your personal story during your debate. I too believe that technology helps to keep us connected. We would not be able to teach during this time if it was not for invention of technology!

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