Technology in education: Is it just a waste of time?

 
Photo attributed to Jim Wilson, New York Times. Students using an interactive whiteboard, part of an ambitious technology plan in the Kyrene School District in Arizona.

The last  8 months I have been blogging about the use of technology in education and especially as a way to assist English Language Learning. I have not only been blogging but using it actively with my students. I mainly teach one to one lessons and my students are young. I had also the honor to present various workshops about the use of technology with students in my university (University of Athens), Paris (Tesol France) and online.

During this time period, I have heard my many objections about  the use of the internet in and outside the classroom for educational use that made me think again and again. Are we wasting precious lesson time using a Web 2.0 application in classroom? Is it just a waste of time asking students to keep a class blog, watch a youtube video, create a slideshow?

Here are some of the objections I have heard:

  • I have used once technology. I showed to my students ”Mrs Doubtfire”. It was such a waste of time. While we were watching the film I was thinking that the students were not learning anything. I preferred to use this time to practice grammar with my students.
  • Technology is very difficult for me to handle.In a school were I was teaching the classrooms were equipped with interactive white boards and projectors. I was loosing precious lesson time.

Today, I have heard a view that really made me think a lot and resulted in my blogging about this:

I have announced to one of my friends and colleague that I will be presenting at Tesol Greece Conference a workshop named ‘Web 2.0 World in the English Language Classroom”. He said to me without the intention to insult me that he is not attending my workshop because he finds the use of tech useless for the Greek reality. He pointed out that in Greek public schools the most classrooms do not  have heat and many of them even a blackboard. He could not imagine to put in action all these thinks I was talking about.

While he was expressing his opinions which are totally understandable, I was thinking how economic factors can discourage teachers from getting inspired and try to do the best for their students. My colleague and many other educators are not at all open to new ideas because their school lacks of proper facilities. But is this the answer to the problem?  Should we give up? A teacher should be the one who inspires the students and help them learn and get motivated to learn.

What is my point of view? We live in a society where the internet is a major part of it. Facebook, for example, has more than 800 million active users and more that 350 million user carry facebook wherever they go through their mobile devices. All my students, colleagues and friends have added me as a friend to facebook. I do not think that I know anyone without an account at any social network. What does this mean? Our students spend a lot of time online. They go home and they do not stop typing (and producing language online). Why not as teachers keep up with the times and adjust some technology in our teaching? If our classroom is not equipped with computers or internet access, our houses are. We can ask  our students to do something meaningful at the internet at home and send it to us via mail. We can practice writing through blogs, wikis, digital storytelling applications –  reading through reading breaking news online, interesting articles – listening through online videos, talks. You can motivate learning and keep students engaged to the lesson. I have seen so many students get motivated just because their teacher asked them to find some extra info online for a project.

I am not suggesting that  technology is the panacea in education. It should be used with intention and considering the students’ e-safety. However, we can not overlook its invaluable benefits.  Teachers should get informed about its advantages and how can be used in education. What is your opinion? Is it just a waste of lesson time or do you think that helps our students? I am really interested in listening  your views.

Advertisements

My top 11 blog posts from ’11

Magic in Education! is a blog that was created for the needs of a presentation on technology in the classsroom. Me and my collegue Makis Aggatheris were assigned to create a 3 hour workshop on New Technologies in Teaching. While we were preparing the workshop I came with an idea of having a blog where the participants can visit and see the links that I suggest them to visit. When the workshop was over, I decided to maintain the blog and keep publishing my ideas on technology in classroom. It is now 8 months amd it has been already visited from visitors from all over the world.

Here you can see my top 11 blog posts (according to the blog’s statistics) from ’11:

11. Make your own comics, Witty Comics

10. Penzu, your own personal journal and online diary

9Using Blogs in Education

8Wallwisher, Words that Stick!

7. Social Networks in Education

6How we created an interactive whiteboard with low cost!!

5. Web 2.0 apps

4. Prezi.com – Creating ashtonishing presentations

3.  How to create your own superhero comic

 2. 30+1  Ways You Should Be Using Facebook in Your Classroom

and….

1. Glogster.com: Poster your self! (Text, Images, Music and Video)

Blogging with Students Challenge #2: Setting up a class blog

In this second challenge we will see how you can set up a class blog. This is the second step of the blogging challenge. You can find the first step here: #1 Why to blog with your students.

If you want to start blogging with your students, it is highly recommended that you  start with a class blog. A class blog will create a virtual classroom, a virtual place  where your students can be engaged to your lesson inside and outside the classroom. If your class blog is successful then you can ask your students to create their own personal blogs.

I usually suggest to teachers to use edublogs with their students. The reasons that I suggest this free provider is that it is usually not restricted from the school firewall and it really easy to use.

So, let’s get it started!

1. Visit the page edublogs.org and choose between the three blogging options. When I ask a student to make a blog I suggest to choose the first option that an email address is not required. For a class blog you can choose the  second option.

2. Choose a blog domain. The domain of the blog should be simple, short and easy to remember. It can be a name that all the students agree such as giraffe class or the orange class. The name can also be the teacher’s name such as Elinda’s English Class or the full name of the teacher.

3. Adjust the appearence of the blog. After you sign up and choose the blog domain and name, the dashboard will appear to your screen. On the left sidebar of your dashboard there is the option Appearance –> Themes.

   

4. Some Examples. Here are some examples of some class blogs:

You can find a list with many class blogs, provided by Sue Waters, here.

The next blogging challenge  #3: Posting and Commenting.

Blogging with Students Challenge #1 Why to blog with your students

A blog offers a kind of asynchronous education. What are the elements that make a blog a useful tool to use in class?

The motivating element

 

Students interface with something completely different from what they are used to. They become so much involved to things that they forget that they are learning. In fact, they are having fun. They enjoy themselves in the activities that they are engaged. Most of the students love to write posts, share and collaborate.

Practice and develop reading and writing skills

You, as a teacher you may assign to your students to write posts, read your posts and their co-students work. They will be motivated to write more and read more. (Teacher evaluation & assessment but also peer assessment)

Attach media (pictures, videos etc)

Every student has his/her own personality. Some are visual types, some reading or writing types. A blog may fill all the student’s needs.You and your students may want to share interesting pictures, videos, graphs and a blog is one of the best way to do it.

Communication is strengthen

Students communicate with each other and with the teacher. There is a greater team spirit.

Improve self-confidence

When a students feels that s/he contributes something useful, this results in a feeling of achievement. We need students that feel good for themselves and their language and general skills. The more the students feel self-confident to the lesson, the most effective your teaching will be.

 Parents can have an overview of their child work

An important element in the parent partnership with the classroom.

 Digital portofolio

The students will keep a track of their writings in a blog. It can be an individual or a class blog. Then, they can go back and forth and check their works.

Keep up with the Blogging with Students Challenge. In my next post I will give practical guidelines on how to set up a class blog.

Blogging with Students Challenge

On the following days I am going to make a research on Blogging with students. I will give practical guidelines on how to start blogging with your students both in a practical and theoretical level. I am planning to cover the following issues:

#1: Why to blog with your students

#2: Setting up a class blog

#3: Posting and Commenting

#4:  Adding useful widgets

#5:  Setting up student’s blogs

#6: Involve parents

Any help will be welcome! So, don’t forget to come back and have a look at my work! 🙂

New Technologies in Teaching Presentation Files

In the following link you may find the whole presentation (ppt file) of the workshop conducted  on Monday 30th May 2011: New Technologies in Teaching Presentation

You may also find the handout here: Handout

and the information leaflet on how we made our interactive whiteboard here: Interactive Whiteboard Leaflet


Sean Banville’s list of top educational blogs

Sean Banville recently is building a list with the best educational blogs! ‘Bloggers’ suggest to him their blogs and he adds them in this list. Until now he has added up to 138 blogs! Magic in education is on number 138!

This list worths to have a look! You may find it here:

http://www.freeeslmaterials.com/blogs.html 


Examples of Educators’ Blogs

This post includes links of blogs which are created and maintained by the educators who address other educators. In these blogs educators share their resources, their class experiences and their recommendations to other educators.

Such blogs are:

  • Sandy Millin, Technologically and linguistically adventurous EFL teacher

Examples of Class Blogs

Educational Blogs are divided into two major categories. The first category is the educator to educators category and the second one is educators to students. In this post I will make an index of some blogs used in class.

  • Mr. C’s Class Blog, The Official Blog of Mr. C’s Class at Noel Elementary School! Modeling the use of technology to teachers and students.

Help me add other!