What makes technology most effective in the classroom?

What makes technology most effective in the classroom?

It’s fair to say that technology probably exists in every classroom in Australia, but as for every educator using it effectively, that’s another story.

As one prominent technologist recently pointed out, the use of digital devices in the classroom is practically redundant unless their use is purposeful and backed by effective pedagogy. 

CQUniversity's Dr Michael Cowling, senior lecturer in educational technology in the school of engineering and technology, recently spoke at the FutureSchools 2017 conference where he outlined his vision for technology’s role in education.

Under the heading ‘The Future for Technology in Schools’, Cowling explained how he carried out his vision in a technology class, encouraging students to use technology, but also ensuring it supported their learning.

“In my systems analysis class, I worked over several semesters to add technology to solve specific pedagogical problems,” he said.

“Asking students to use a laptop without scaffolding doesn't work, but if you gather students around an iPad and ask them to collaborate on a diagram, then you are serving both pedagogy and their love of technology.”

Cowling said that while his own students love using technology, he has realised that technology for technology's sake is “a waste of time”.

At the NSW Education Symposium last October, an internationally renowned education expert raised eyebrows when he questioned the impact that mobile devices are having in classrooms – not only in Australia but around the world.

Finnish education expert, professor
Pasi Sahlberg, said there is research to suggest that the increasing amount of technology in the classroom may be having a negative impact on learning outcomes.

He predicted a tobacco and big sugar-style marketing war between edutech-company-backed research and independent research in the next five years, saying educators are “not paying attention to the very rapidly increased use of screen technology”.

“The first three PISAs were in 2000, 2003 and 2006, and this thing didn't exist. There were no iPads or smartphones,” he said.

“So if you look at kids in Australia, they used a fraction of the time they use today with different types of smartphones and iPads and computer screens compared to the first three.”

Cowling said the technology that schools introduce into classrooms must serve the purpose of enhancing learning through improving pedagogy.

Cowling pointed to one project, developed in collaboration with Bond University, which uses augmented reality and 3D printed components to simulate foreign body removal for distance education paramedic students.

Even in this project, Cowling says pedagogy comes first, with the intervention being a response to student feedback requesting a chance to practise these skills more whilst being geographically dispersed.

“For our paramedic students, the key was to give them tools to help them learn skills more effectively,” he explained.

“Those tools turned out to be augmented reality simulation but, even in that project, the pedagogy came first. If the solution had been a non-technology one, that would have been okay too.”