Laptops: Friend or Foe [Revisited]

I recently attended a PD called Making Thinking Visible, it was fantastic. So often, we go to PD sessions and whilst they may be interesting, we leave feeling like we didn’t really gain anything new. This was different.  I left feeling inspired and excited about what I could do in my classroom (standby for a post on this soon). But, it also got me thinking about our use of technology in the classroom and I was reminded about a post I wrote for my Uni blog last year. It was in response to a news article I’d read and as we were in our first year of BYOD I found it thought provoking:

(Original blog posted on my Uni blog May 19, 2016.)

Recently, in the media there has been a lot of talk about the use of laptops within schools, this has promoted a healthy debate about the implementation of laptops in to the classroom and how this can impact both negatively and positively on the teaching and learning process.

The article that sparked the debate was published in The Australian on March 26, 2016- Computers in class ‘a scandalous waste’: Sydney Grammar head.   This article offers a different view on technology, and whilst there are some valid points made I do think that it is still essential to consider the needs of the 21st C learner.  Dr. Vallance goes on to say that “one of the most powerful tools in education is conversation” and I couldn’t agree more. reflecting back on my years as an English teacher, some of the most educationally valuable lessons were those fuelled by conversation, debate and questioning we didn’t use a laptop for this.

As the world changes, so does the way we teach and the way we learn. Surely there is a need, like anything for balance, we just need to be aware of our digital diet.

We are now our second year of being a BYOD school, and many staff have made the transition from paper to online, myself included. Whilst there are a multitude of pros and cons in the argument for paper vs digital,  I think having laptops in the classroom does create a wealth of opportunity and is ultimately a good thing.

Recently, however, I’ve noticed that students are becoming increasingly distracted by their device and they always want to Google the answer instead of thinking about it  first. Now, there is nothing wrong with Google. Google is great. Google can help us find answers to our questions, but Google (at times) is stopping my students from thinking for themselves.

In one of my lessons last week I introduced the See, Think Wonder routine, which I was introduced to at the PD.  Students were asked to look at a specific photo from history and do the following:

  1. See: List everything they could see in the photo
  2. Think: Make statements about what they think could be going on in the photo
  3. Wonder: Make a list of questions they have about the photo

To stop the students from using Google, the image was projected on to the screen I didn’t want them doing a reverse image search and finishing out information about the photo before they had a chance to think about it yet, still they wanted to look it up. They have become used to this so-called safety net that Google provides.  What was interesting, was watching the students adapt to the expectations of the activity, and whilst they were unsure to start with,  they were able to pose interesting and thoughtful questions about the photo.

It ended up being a refreshing lesson, for myself and for the students, who were engaged and contributing to the class discussion more than usual, and it just goes to show that whilst there is merit in using technology in the classroom, there is sometimes greater benefits in going back to pen and paper and being aware of our digital diet.

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