The #EdTech Balance

April 3, 2019

During the fifth episode of season two, we discussed a new study out of Finland that calls into question many of the gains and praise that the Finns consistently garner about their education system.While there is certainly enough research out there that supports how effective the Finnish Education System is for the Finnish people, we do not live in Finland. One of the main points of contention within the report is that use of, and sometimes reliance upon, technology as the teacher in the classroom has inhibited student growth. After thinking about parallels to our own system, one conclusion we drew from this new analysis is that there must be a balance between the use of technology in our classrooms and the research-based understandings about how humans learn.

The study found that Finland’s “phenomenon-based” learning methods may not be suitable for all students, and indeed, may contribute to achievement gaps akin to what we experience in the States. Per the report, “this type of learning works for students who perform well in school and receive support from home, according to Saarinen. But less naturally-gifted students face the risk of being left behind in a phenomenon-based learning environment.” Additionally, and unsurprisingly, the research also found that “…students can easily be distracted by the devices themselves – like laptops or tablets – and often start using them for something besides schoolwork.”

Just like anything in the education world, teachers must learn to plan for balance in their classrooms. If teachers constantly rely on the same strategy over and over again, there is a potential for one’s instruction to become stale and boring (at best). What’s worse, is that their approach could actually become detrimental to student learning and achievement. So, what do we mean about striking a balance?

  • Paper isn’t your enemy: provide capture sheets on paper when using computers to read information OR provide readings on paper to allow for annotation. Using capture sheets on the computer allows students to actively work with the text, and promotes greater retention of the recorded material.
  • Allow for choice: not all students want to use computers all the time. More students than you might think get sick of using computers as often as they are required. Allow for paper readings and graphic organizers as often as possible. Yes, this requires a bit more foresight and planning on our part, but it’s all part of being an effective teacher – meeting students where they are.
  • Provide for technology “vacations” in your classroom. Pick one day a week where no computers will be used – including your own! This shows that you are willing to hold the same expectations for yourself as you do with your students. Just like some folks are doing “Meatless Mondays”, try “Tech-Free Tuesdays!”

As with everything in education, there is nuance to the conversations revolving around the use of technology in the classroom. There are debates about the possible radiation effects of WiFi, there are concerns about exacerbated student eyesight issues, data privacy issues, and even discussions surrounding the use of tech-free schooling for the wealthiest families among us who can afford private Waldorf-type schooling. For your students’ sake, and to allow for novelty through a balance of instructional strategies, keep a close eye on how much you balance #EdTech solutions with that of doing things the old fashioned way!


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