After fifteen years in corporate America, my father returned to school – this time as a teacher. He was in search of a more fulfilling career, which he found in the classroom. Therefore, when it came time to interview someone about the relationship between educational technology and meaningful learning, I knew exactly who to interview. I would be remiss not to thank my dear ol’ dad for taking a few minutes to help me with my school work (flashback to Ms. Lumpkin’s first grade class).
To provide a little background information: my dad is an AP and honors chemistry teacher at a high school in Georgia. He typically uses “technology more to supplement [his] teaching in the classroom rather than to deliver content.” Most of his students’ homework assignments are submitted with technology through an online homework service or teaching platform, such as Moodle. He also regularly uses computers and sensors for laboratory experiments. Sensors can be especially helpful for students when collecting and analyzing data.
Now, the meat of our talk: Much of the discussion with my dad focused on the positives and negatives (insert chemistry joke about the charge of an ion) of educational technology in the classroom. According to my dad, technology saves him a tremendous amount of time. “The homework service grades the assignments automatically in most cases,” he said. While most of the questions on Moodle require him to grade manually, responses are presented online in a manner that allows for very efficient grading of written assignments. My dad is also a big supporter of technology in the classroom because of the unique problems that can be given to students. “Of course, students can always “google” the answer, but this is a problem with any type of assignment” – online or paper.
Although technology can complement instructors, the primary purpose of my interview was to assess whether or not educational technology does or can facilitate meaningful learning in the classroom. What is the teacher’s perspective? My dad responded like I expected him to: “I do not think that technology can replace an effective teacher; however, it can be a powerful tool to enhance the teaching and learning in the classroom.” While my dad primarily employs technology in experiments and homework assignments, I also asked for him to share his opinion about “Bring Your Own Learning Device” initiatives, which he does not view as the “most effective method of using technology.” He explained, “Students use it as an excuse to have their devices out doing non-educational activities. I know it saves the school district resources that do not have to be spent on hardware, but it provides for a lot of distraction.”
So what did I gather from this interview? Meaningful learning is possible with technology. Perhaps I should expand my study to more teachers, but it seems like in-depth research and my dad’s perspective align quite well. Before our conversation ended, my dad added, “Technology can be a distraction if the teacher and school administration allow it to be. However, I think the benefits of technology in the classroom far outweigh the negative effects.” And I agree with him. Do you?
On another completely different note, I connected with several teachers and classrooms via Twitter this week. I was excited to offer a suggestion of a graphic novel (March 1) to one educator. It’s exciting to see educators are passionate about creating a meaningful learning environment for their students!