The ICT debate

Imagine this.

Practical experience. Day 2. Lesson 1. You’ve got a dynamic lesson planned that incorporates a number of ICTs that you know the students are going to love! You’ve marked the roll, and you’re setting up the first activity when suddenly the computers are not cooperating. The iPads are charged (there goes your back up plan), and then the internet crashes. Now what? There’s forty minutes left and twenty-eight very bored and rowdy students waiting for you to tell them what to do … Panic sets in.

This was one of my experiences with ICT in my second prac. I have to say, there’s something reassuring about traditional teaching methods; something solid and dependable about good old fashioned pens and paper. One of the readings this week really captured my attention: Five Things We Need to Know About Technological Change by Postman. Postman’s first point is that:

… for every advantage a new technology offers, there is always a corresponding disadvantage. The disadvantage may exceed in importance the advantage, or the advantage may well be worth the cost.

(Postman, 1998).

ICTs in the classroom pose a number of concerns for me:

1. I’ve observed on the practical experiences that the over-use of ICTs can create a digital divide between students. This is due to two main reasons. A) Socio-economic factors. ICTs can disadvantage students from a low socio-economic backgrounds who can’t afford the technology, and therefore do not how to use it. Students therefore who are more familiar with technology will experience more benefits than another student who is unfamiliar with it. B) ICT can only replace communication in the classroom as students exit concrete life and move into a virtual life.

2. COST. Technology is not cheap. Who pays for the integration of ICT into our schools? Also linked into this point is the burden of maintenance and management of the ICTs. Time is something that teachers do not have a lot of between reports, duties, classes, planning, marking and their own lives, who then takes care of the systems?

I love this quote from Postman’s essay on technological change, I think it sums up my concerns as well as reflects our society perfectly:

And now, of course, the winners speak constantly of the Age of Information, always implying that the more information we have, the better we will be in solving significant problems–not only personal ones but largescale social problems, as well. But how true is this? If there are children starving in the world–and there are–it is not because of insufficient information. We have known for a long time how to produce enough food to feed every child on the planet. How is it that we let so many of them starve? If there is violence on our streets, it is not because we have insufficient information. If women are abused, if divorce and pornography and mental illness are increasing, none of it has anything to do with insufficient information. I dare say it is because something else is missing, and I don’t think I have to tell this audience what it is. Who knows? This age of information may turn out to be a curse if we are blinded by it so that we cannot see truly where our problems lie.

HOWEVER … It is almost important as Postman suggests to also consider the advantages of Technology, and whether or not the disadvantages, outweigh the advantages of ICTs in the classroom. According to the education blog written for EDC3100,

… some of the advantages are that children become active learners and they are motivated to explore information while the teacher becomes more of a facilitator. A disadvantage is the teachers ability to supervise the use of ICT’s as it can be difficult with many children in the room and only one teacher. Websites can also provide the answers for the children and they have no chance to discover and evaluate ideas properly.

The following video explores in more detail many of the benefits of ICT in the classroom.

A handy visual that categorises several ICTs according to Bloom’s Taxonomy. Check out some more awesome visuals at this site

In my mind, I have come to the conclusion that the advantages of ICTs do outweigh the disadvantages. However, how do we manage this? How do the find balance and ensure that no students are disadvantaged by ICTs in the classroom?We need to be discerning in choosing ICTs and finding the right balance between using ICT to complement the content and using technology for the sake of it as this can detract from the main goal of the learning.

What disadvantages have you experienced integrating ICTs into the classroom? What steps did you take to overcome these?

Happy Studying!

PS: This blog post also offers some interesting comments on this debate: https://ourictgroup.wordpress.com/advantages-and-disadventages-to-ict-in-the-classroom

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