Sunday, November 13, 2011



Do you want to engage your students using phenomenal new tools?

Does your school have “technophobe” administrators who see technology as a distraction?

Do you have colleagues that think computer use by students stifles their creativity and innovation?

Would you like to learn about some research findings that support technology use in the classroom?

Take the next step! Effectively empower your students to develop critical thinking skills! Get set to zoom through cyberspace, efficiently!

First things first, teachers themselves need to understand why using technology in the classroom leads to higher student learning outcomes. Second, teachers should aim to carefully examine and intertwine course content and technology tools, and then translate that into student expectations. Let me share my thoughts and findings below:

Ever since I enrolled in my first Educational Technology course during the Summer of 2008, I was enamored by all that technology in the classroom offered, from my personal perspective as a student. When the following school year in August began, I as a teacher offered my students opportunities to stretch their creative minds and develop projects using engaging Web 2.0 tools, and I was amazed. My students had never been more engaged or more happy with a Language class. They were now film creators, editors, directors, actors, comedians, technicians, and commentators; at the same time, they were learning Spanish language content effectively and with enthusiasm.

I recall how my administrators and fellow colleagues were confused as to why I would offer these types of projects to Spanish language study students. I was met with the skepticism inherent to “old-school” Educational Administrators. When called upon to substantiate my methods, I found it easier to skip past the research supportive of Educational Technology, and instead explained the educational gains and outcomes.  I would just point to the students’ end-products and their knowledge obtained by my entertaining and interactive technology approaches.

During the Critics of Educational Technology articles readings, from a research-based perspective, I noted the following themes to be prevalent:
   Ÿ the significant financial investment made by educational institutions does not equal the benefit gained from learning with technology
         Ÿ the human and physical world offer so much more to a student than a one-dimensional computer, as clarified by Oppenheimer (1997)
         Ÿ computer use stifles creativity and innovation, encourages isolation and sedentary learning, and renders reading tedious (Oppenheimer 1997)
         Ÿ distance learning courses through a Web medium “are merely correspondence courses distributed electronically” (Zemsky & Massy, 2004, p. 5)

I located an additional article by Hokanson and Hooper, where they described the rationale for failed technology integration in formal education. They emphasized that computers are tools, and consequently that students ought to “learn with technology, not just from technology.”  Hokanson and Hooper also made reference to the research of Oppenheimer, Clark, Jonassen and Kozma, emphasizing that instructional methods and pedagogy are critical factors of effective integration. They articulated that the “soft and subjective beliefs of society” as well as the handling of education with a business model have limited educational advancement with technology.

I believe that each of the above criticisms makes a valid point, but these points also can be negotiated. First of all, there is the criticism about the considerable amount of financial investment thrown at technology by schools. An administrator unquestionably would have to validate the advantages gained compared to monies spent. Culp, Honey and Mandinach (2003) expressed that on the contrary, “one cannot ignore the immense costs saved.” The use of computers coupled with the internet have made it feasible and easy to “(deliver) instruction to geographically dispersed audiences…  (or to use) distance learning systems to expand the reach of teachers in specialized subject areas to broader populations of students” (Culp, et al., 2003). Or thanks to Web 2.0 tools, organization of content (taught/learned) can be easily and cheaply displayed.  It is difficult to argue that we do not strive to educate our children and provide for them financially so that they will be successful in their futures; why would we not apply the same logic to the cost of technology in education?

Oppenheimer argued that computer use stifles creativity and innovation, encourages isolation and sedentary learning, and renders reading tedious (1997). However Culp (et al.) asserted that
         “many reports present strong assertions that technology can catalyze various      other changes in the content, methods, and overall quality of the teaching and        learning process, most frequently, triggering changes away from lecture-driven instruction and toward constructivist, inquiry-oriented classrooms” (2003, p. 5).

I look at it from the constructivist paradigm, where education is about participation, and includes social construction of knowledge and collaboration where students are encouraged to reflect on their learning. For example, with a collaborative learning approach, students are explorers, managers and producers putting forth a team effort. With problem-based learning approaches, a group of students may work together to achieve a final comprehensive goal. Working as members of a classmate group on a Moodle discussion forum or perhaps an educational social networking site such as Edmodo are the exact opposite of the isolation of which Oppenheimer claimed.

Furthermore, student technology use does not stifle creativity and innovation; quite the opposite occurs when students interactively work with content and digital tools. As Jenkins pointed out, “the explosion of new media technologies…make it possible for average consumers to archive, annotate, appropriate, and recirculate media content in powerful new ways” (2009, p. 8). In my Spanish classroom, students utilize Prezi or Brainshark for presentations, edit pictures with Photoshop, add their voice to animations and pictures with GarageBand or Audacity, annotate on a VoiceThread and demonstrate knowledge with Screenchomp or Bubble.Us. These Spanish classroom activities illustrate Jenkins’ theory and Lenhardt & Madden’s examination (2005) that students will more actively control and contribute to the production Web 2.0 culture to which they subscribe.

Finally, there is a criticism that distance learning courses through a web medium are flat and without interaction, similar to a correspondence course where only the teacher and student take part. I consider the opposite to be true and judge that online courses offer added value.  As Gee argued (as cited in Jenkins, 2009), these online spaces
         “offer powerful opportunities for learning…because they are sustained by common endeavors that bridge differences in age, class, race, gender, and   educational level, and because people can participate in various ways according to their skills and interests, because they depend on peer-to-peer teaching with each participant constantly motivated to acquire new knowledge or refine their existing skills, and because they allow each participant to feel like an expert while tapping the expertise of others.”

My personal experience with online graduate study is the reverse of “flat.” The online environment is rich, diverse and complex, and provides a space to share insight and experience. It forces a person to sharpen initiative, critical-thinking, and communication skills. My classmates and I explore, debate, reflect and gradually come to understand our personal and classmates’ perspectives.

As evidenced, I believe that a strong case for Educational Technology exists, and that the criticisms can be challenged appropriately with research findings. “College presidents predict substantial growth in online learning” (Parker, Lenhart & Moore, 2011); students will continue to be motivated and learn with the assistance of digital tools; and the computers and the internet will probably gain more sophistication in the near future. Similar to my personal experience as a graduate student, I believe students everywhere find the integration of technology in education to provide a positive and worthwhile experience; I therefore would count myself as an Educational Technology “criticism-naysayer.”


Culp, K. M., Honey, M., & Mandinach, E. (2003). A retrospective on twenty years of education technology policy. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 32(3), 279-307. Retrieved from

Goode, B. (2004). Unintended consequences: Distance learning and the structure of the university. Distance Education Report, (8). p. 2 & p. 7. Retrieved from

Hokanson, B., & Hooper, S. (2004). Integrating technology in classrooms: We have met the enemy and he is us. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Association for Educational Communications and Technology, Chicago: IL. Retrieved from

Jenkins, H. (2009). Confronting the challenges of participatory culture: Media education for the 21st century. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation reports on digital media and learning, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Retrieved from      E807E1B0AE4E%7D/JENKINS_WHITE_PAPER.PDF

Lenhart, A. & Madden, M. (2005). Teen content creators and consumers. Pew Internet & American Life Project paper, Pew Research Center, Washington, DC. Retrieved from      Findings.aspx

Parker, K., Lenhart, A., & Moore, K. (2011). The digital revolution and higher education. Pew Internet & American Life Project executive summary report, Pew Research Center, Washington, DC. Retrieved from

Oppenheimer, T. (1997). The Computer delusion. The Atlantic Monthly, 280(1), 45-62. Retrieved from

Zemsky, R., & Massy, W. (2004). Thwarted innovation: What happened to e-learning and why. A Final Report for The Weatherstation Project of The Learning Alliance at the University of Pennsylvania in cooperation with the Thomson Corporation, Philadelphia, PA. Retrieved from

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