As a Technology Education teacher, keeping up with the latest trends in educational technology is extremely important.  It can be exciting to see what new programs, apps, and tech are being implemented in the classroom, but it can also be scary and overwhelming in the pace that new tech is being developed. I have found it important to connect with other teachers to communicate what tech is working for them and what is not.  It is too easy to jump on new tech that looks cool and useful only to find out that the technology has very limited educational application and does not lend itself well to the learning process. It is especially important to be aware of some tech’s possible shortcomings as it can be expensive and high schools have limited budgets.  For this reason, I generally use caution and wait for a technology to prove itself a little first before investing money and preparation time into it. But new educational tech is not all doom and gloom, it can also be extremely helpful in implementing exciting and efficient ways to communicate ideas and challenge students in their learning and understanding of the world and their place in it.

As an electronics / robotics teacher, using coding, cloud based collaborative learning, and prototyping via 3D printing have quickly found a home in my classroom. These technologies have taken the subject matter and really opened it up for every student. Students are now able to communicate both in class and out, using cloud/collaborative apps such as Google Docs and it has never been easier to share and refine ideas.  Robotics and coding have helped my students develop their critical thinking, explore iteration, and logic skills which, as many educational technology trend articles have described (see below for article links), are projected to be valued skills in future employment opportunities. With the advent of lower cost 3D printers’ students can now readily design and prototype ideas, taking the digital and turning it into the physical.  Being able to take the idea of a concept and putting it into practice allows students to connect the entire design & production process from beginning to end. These types of tech have changed the way my classes are taught and made the learning process more efficient and effective.

Unfortunately, not all tech is as applicable to education (or, at least, my taught subjects). I have played around with augmented reality (AR) apps such as HP Reveal, as noted on the Tech & Learning website, and I have found that, although the technology looks really cool it is difficult to implement unless it is guaranteed that every student has a device (which my students do not). As a technology education teacher, I bristle at the idea of virtual reality (VR) in my classroom.  I pride myself on giving students a hands-on experience and the idea of putting on a head set or staring at a Chrome Book and “virtually” cutting wood or driving a robot does not interest me. What is the point of pretending to do something in a virtual landscape when you can do it in real life!? I do understand that it can be utilized in demonstrating things that are too expensive or prohibitive to do normally, such as a virtual surgery as noted in multiple articles (see below), but if the VR system is only being used for one application it will likely not be cost effective for a high school purchase. I agree with the Top Hat blog in their assessment that VR & AR have limited appeal and very specific use and need, otherwise they are a fun distraction. It should be noted that VR and AR could be adapted well in situations where students have a disability and can not participate in the traditional hands-on projects.

Educational technology has helped streamline the classroom and make learning more fun and effective for students. This makes pursuing it worth the time, although I do have some criticisms. Firstly, digital security can be a difficult to manage. Can I store information on this server? Is the information safe? Could I lose my work, or my students work, if the tech closes? All these things and more need to be addressed when using tech in the classroom.

Secondly, as technology rapidly changes it is important to remember that not all changes are necessarily good if not addressed critically.  In the Holland & Holland article it discusses the idea of having internet access everywhere which would allow down time to become more effectively used.  Although they immediately state they are not advocating a 24/7 work schedule, the thought made my skin crawl.  Most people would agree that having internet access everywhere would be great and allow flexible work hours. That is not being debated but it leaves wiggle room for abusive employers to demand more work from their employees. This can already be seen with people sometimes being expected to monitor emails even when off the clock or working from home outside the regular business day.

Tech in the classroom has helped prepare students for the realities of the future job market, broadening their understanding of the world and their ability to be adaptable and think critically. Overall, tech in the classroom is a good thing but it needs to be approached with care, respect, and mindfulness. Like our parents and their parents before them, we want a safe and bright future for our students, and we want them to have the best we can give them.

 

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