Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Is all this technology good for us?

One of my main motivations for starting the EdTech program at Boise State is to attempt to get a firm handle on how and why to use technology effectively. I enjoy technology and I like incorporating it into my classroom. But is it helping students learn? Are the "old-fashioned" ways better for them overall and are they losing important life skills by being plugged in all the time? The articles we read this week for EdTech 537 don't exactly give me clarity on the subject. I look forward to hearing the thoughts of my classmates, especially those that are further along in the program that I am.

In Marc Prenskey's article he defines digital natives and digital immigrants. I personally find myself to be somewhere in between these two. He generalizes that most teachers are digital immigrants and that students are digital natives. This is a broad stroke, but I see what he means. He says that digital native students learn differently, they multitask, they like to receive info quickly, they like random access, networking, and instant rewards/feedback. I definitely have seen this with my students, especially the random access. As a teacher, I give directions step by step before they get started. More often then not I end up frustrated when I have to answer the same question several times because that direction was not really relevant to them until they actually got to that point.

Prensky says that games (like a video game) are the answer for meeting the educational needs of digital natives. When I read that I was completely on board. I have recently delved into the idea of gamifying my courses. I tried it with my Imperialism unit this year and it was great, I saw it meeting the needs of my digital native students. After reading Prensky's article I was giving myself a pat on the back. But then I read Jamie McKenzie's critique and I wasn't feeling so confident. McKenzie criticizes Prensky's lack of research to back up his finding as well as the broad strokes he uses to the portray digital immigrants, like claiming they don't think learning should be fun. He also pointed out that we assume to much about digital natives, they really are not as tech savvy as we think. I totally agree with this, I find that many students can use technology to entertain themselves and communicate but they don't know how to use their devices for learning. Oddly enough this criticism of Prensky is what compels me to incorporate technology. Students need to know how to leverage technology for more sophisticated purposes. Relating to that, McKenzie also points to the fact that most researchers agree that too much screen time is not good for us. Students are connecting with their devices more than actual human beings.

The final article referenced research about the generational differences and tried to reach a conclusion about if we need to take them into account in our instruction design. The article seemed to reach the conclusion that it certainly does not hurt to account for generational differences. And many studies referenced gave high praise to gamifying the classroom. Perhaps this is the conclusion I wanted to reach, but I do plan to continue to question the use of technology in my classroom and strive to help students balance their use of technology with the face-to-face interactions needed for a fulfilling life.


  1. I too am an avid user of technology in my classroom and in my life, and I too originally agreed with Prensky on the surface. But I found myself, after the three readings, sitting mostly with Reeves. I think technology is really a tool for learning and that it should be used to enhance classroom learning and face to face learning, not replace it entirely. For example, it sounds like your Imperialism gaming worked beautifully, and I would imagine it was because after learning about it from you and other more typical ways of learning, students then got to experience it themselves as well, making it more real. You gave them a tool to experience the real-world application of their learning. But without the original learning, it wouldn't have meant as much to them I think. So I would say being between authors is a good place to be! And the Imperialism gaming sounds AWESOME!

  2. Kaelyn, I think there are important things to take away from the three readings - and your reflections have touched on this. I use the Prensky reading because this view is so prevalent within our K-12 system (and within the media in general). As McKenzie illustrates, not only are Prensky's ideas not based on research, but in some places he misleads and even lies about what people say (or who they even are) when making - up - his views. The Reeves article is a good summary of what the theory of generational differences claim (which is generally accepted), and the lack of research to support what most people believe is conventional wisdom.

  3. I agree Kaelyn. I think that incorporating technology into the classroom and channeled in the appropriate ways can increase learning among students. However, we cannot simply just hand the technology over and just assume that because students are immersed in it that they will find the educational use. We have to ensure that students are not utilizing the technology for the "cool game" or points/rewards. There has to be some type of educational purpose and backing to the game. Prensky does a great job of explaining how the youth of today are technologically savvy and can do much more than previous generations. We should use all types of technologies with them as that is the new learning channel. However, Prensky's ideas are unfounded and biased. He is an educational game designer that profits off of these ideas. His theories would align with the "new technology ideas." What is important, is what you state - we must make sure that students are leveraging the technology in ways that benefits and assists them in problem-solving and growth. I bet you are doing just that with the technology you incorporate, with guidance and modification.