Should technology completely replace the foundational practices in the classroom?
There is a certain dynamic to learning in today’s world that teachers and educational administrators are now very interested in studying courses like education technology to study how to merge, create and use technology with foundational classroom techniques to ensure that 21st century learners thrive in their expected future. This is also not to say that these basic foundational classroom principles have not evolved over time outside of technology. This is important to note because many schools and their administrators are beginning to think that technology is now everything.
Integrating technology into our classrooms today is important but replacing foundational teaching practices that have been tested and proven from the days of yore – regardless of the advancement the world has been taking on through the ages– is where we need to be cautious.
It is true that in our classrooms today, with the type of students we have, if we come to class just to talk and write on the board, they will sleep off or find something else to do with their hand or their mouth which will result in them losing track of their learning. This should definitely be an unlikely situation if we really know what we are doing as teachers, especially if we allow learner agency in our classrooms.
Math teachers will agree that if a student doesn’t know what operation he is about to carry out on paper, the calculator is useless to him because he still needs his brain. The same goes for teachers and school administration, if you have no goals for your students in your classroom and for your school at large, there is no amount of interactive whiteboards and personalized gadgets for each student that can inculcate in them the excellence you have failed to plan for.
Let us zoom into a country responsible for most of the cars we drive, the electronics and supercomputers we use. A country that had already normalized the integration of robots in daily business activities – Japan. This country still uses the chalkboard and of course chalk; both in the public and private schools. Not just in Japan, but in another country with one of the highest technology labour forces in the world – India. China and South Korea, like Japan, with intricate characters, use the chalkboard as part of their expression of penmanship so that learners can learn to write well.
Students in Japan, till today, typically use hardcopies of textbooks in different sizes and carry either a very large school bag or two. They have not been replaced entirely with colourful learning websites. It is very common to walk into malls and find students reading huge textbooks and writing – not typing – in their notebooks, recreating and mastering models they have learnt from their teachers who wrote on a chalkboard. Yet, when they are given the opportunity to tear down a computer and put it back together again, one would marvel and think they were thought by aliens from a parallel universe. It is interesting to see that Japanese students are very studious by default and are generally self-motivated and self-regulated. This is why: they have not been made to think that studying with hard copies is a gruesome task that can only become fun when done on a screen.
In mathematics, teachers have to write on a board to ensure that mathematical sentences can be modeled by the student in their notebook. When students are used to just clicking answers on a screen to prepare for standard exams that have built marking schemes around what they have written down because their teacher has taken gamifying their lessons to mean “thou shalt not use pen and paper anymore”, they are clicking on failure.
Technology has its place in the classroom: to support your set objectives as a teacher. Technology in the classroom is still highly dependent on foundational teaching practices. The question we should ask is if we have no technology in our classes, can we still achieve our lesson goals? Can our students master this knowledge we are planning on giving them? If our answer is no, then we need to improve ourselves as teachers and school leaders and find ways to guide our students to become leaders of their own learning which they will always have with them for the rest of their lives and can help them adapt to wherever our world is headed to unlike technology, whereas certain operating systems improve, some phones will not be able to contain them.