With the introduction of new curriculum in B.C. schools, conversation is stirring around its design, “to reflect the changing role of technology in today’s society.”
As technology becomes more prominent in our lives, most people are developing their own stances on how it should be used within classrooms. According to Mike Murray, chair of the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows school board, the district’s budget for the current school year allocates $3 million to support the use of technology, from IT employees to a refresh of staff computers and software licenses.
With all of this support, teachers and students are adapting to an environment flush with new technologies and endless ways in which to use them.
There are generally two ways that people are reacting to this rapid change, either they are embracing technology or are reluctant to employ these new mediums.
Sylvia Russell, district superintendent, believes that technology can help certain people overcome barriers to learning.
She recounted the story of a young girl diagnosed within the autism spectrum and had certain behaviors which frightened her classmates. However, when this student joined the laptop program, she was able to send messages to classmates she had previously been unable to communicate with.
Prior to the program, the only way they had seen her express her ideas or opinions was through her actions when she was frustrated or angry.
The use of technology allowed the other students to get to know and understand her, outside of the context of the behaviors that they didn’t understand.
Although instances such as these show the potential of technology to improve education, the one great worry, according to Russell, “comes when technology isn’t tied to a specific learning and teaching purpose. Use of technology can fill many hours – but this time isn’t necessarily quality learning time.”
One point of consensus seems to be that technology must not be the focus of the lesson, but a tool to improve learning.
Opposition to technology in the classroom is generally focused on cellphone use.
Ted McCain, a teacher of the Digital Arts Academy at Maple Ridge secondary and author of multiple non-fiction books on the future of education and effective teaching for the 21st Century, admits that cellphones can be “incredibly distracting, and a real nuisance.”
But they can also be a powerful resource, connecting students to the Internet.
McCain doesn’t have specific rules for cellphones in his classes.
“I have really no different rules for cellphones than I do for how you act generally, and that is that you have to have respect in the classroom.”
As someone who teaches senior students, allowing them to believe that this disrespect is acceptable would not prepare them for post secondary life.
Other teachers do not feel that technology is always necessary in their classroom as they can effectively teach without it.
Dave Semper, a mathematics teacher at Maple Ridge secondary, believes that “technology should be used when it enhances mathematical thought. [But] when technology takes the place of mathematical thought, or weakens those skills, it should not be used.”
He noticed some students in grades 8 and 9 who were allowed constant access to their calculators never developed the number crunching ability to fluidly solve problems.
When it comes to cellphone use, he does not “want them out period. We have laws now for distracted driving because we can’t keep ourselves off of our phones. I’m trying to keep students from distracting themselves,” Semper said.
“I think that although it may be confusing for students to have varied approaches to technology from class to class, teachers will teach most effectively using the mediums they are comfortable with. This also reflects the future workforce that we will be entering, where many employers will have their own rules and ideals that we must follow.”
Bronte Miner is a student at