The use of technology in the classroom brings about a great deal of debate in academic circles. It upsets some as technology can further separate the “haves” from the “have nots”. Additionally, technology can often be seen as a replacement for pedagogy. This proves to be a fallacy and simply cannot be an acceptable answer. Technology serves as a tool. We can be good teachers without it. We can be good teachers with it. If we use technology correctly, we can be even better teachers.
In the same manner, technology cannot replace skill development in our students. As explained by the partnership for 21st century skills, the United States is heading in the direction of more jobs that require higher level thinking, as well as technology efficiency. They highlight the following skills needed for all Americans in their report:
- Thinking critically and making judgments
- Solving complex, multidisciplinary, open minded problems
- Creativity and entrepreneurial thinking
- Communicating and collaborating
- Making innovative use of knowledge, information, and opportunities
- Taking charge of financial, health and civic responsibilities
When we examine Bloom’s Taxonomy, it is clear that critical thinking is on the higher end. If students can think
critically, they will be able to compose, create, evaluate, and compare. They, in many ways, will be able to have limitless opportunities. This does not mean that technology can do this for them. As Jason Price and Carlo Ricci point out in their article entitled “Laptops and Powerpoint: Teacher education for the senses or sensibilities?”, teaching and learning must use technology to enhance critical thinking. They point to a reliance on technology having a detrimental effect. They state: “For example, our research suggests that many believe that laptop programs may lead to a de-emphasis of discourse, community building, critical inquiry, and deeper skill learning” (Price & Ricci, 2009). While acknowledging this potential limitation, the authors point out that it isn’t the fault of the technology. This is where we must find the balance as educators. They continue: “We, however, counter by asking whether this is inherent in laptops and technology, or if it is rather the lack of imagination and creativity in the pedagogy and curriculum, and the restrictions that are forced onto students that leads to this belief” (Price & Ricci, 2009).
We can see how good teachers put this balance of pedagogy and technology to work on ISTE Wikispaces. Ben Smith submitted a plan in his class to access critical thinking. He states: “We are trying to create a digital classroom where students receive and transmit information electronically. Our goal is for students to be able to use technology as a tool for problem solving, selecting and implementing the appropriate tool” (Smith, 2009). This isn’t just using technology for the sake of using it. Smith requires his students to think critically about what technology to use and why. Meg Griffin takes it even a step further. She states:
“I use technology as a gateway tool to science inquiry learning. Our energy unit shows an example of the meaningful blend of science skills and content with technology. Students use electronic temperature sensors as they explore and make meaning about heat energy” (Griffin, 2009).
I am taking my class to the computer lab on Thursday to use technology to enhance critical thinking skills. After meeting with our Head of Technology, I now have my junior class set up on Moodle. I will be introducing them to it on Thursday with a practice prompt that requires them to reflect on the Lincoln-Douglas debate of 1858. The students will need to make an argument defending either Abraham Lincoln or Stephen Douglas based upon their reading. After looking over their responses, I will make next week a Moodle Week. Students will be responding to two prompts about the beginning of the Civil War and then responding twice to classmates as well. This will not be about just using technology. My goal is to allow all students the opportunity to practice technology while thinking critically. I look forward to seeing the results of their participation and insight.
ISTE Wikispaces. (n.d.). Retrieved from the ISTE Wiki: http://nets-implementation.iste.wikispaces.net/Critical+Thinking,+Problem+Solving,+and+Decision+Making
Partnership for 21st Century Skills. (2008). 21st Century Skills, Education & Competitiveness: A Resource and Policy Guide.
Price, J. & Ricci, C. (2009). Laptops and PowerPoint: Teacher education for the senses or sensibilities? THEN: Journal. Retrieved from: http://thenjournal.org/feature/228