CCRTC Update # 8
TECHNOLOGY AND EDUCATION - A NEW NORMAL?
Is there anything of which one can say, “Look! This is something new”? Ecclesiastes 1:10
It is always dangerous to pull a text out of context, but the question posted by the author of Ecclesiastes is an interesting one, especially in these days that are often described as ‘unprecedented’ times. Most people do their work in a very different way than what was normal two months ago. In the news we can often read that all this will have a lasting effect on the way many of us will do our work. This could also apply to education. The question is asked, “Will we still need teachers in classrooms when all this is over?” Some are saying that our easy shift into using technology to replace the regular classroom gives us reason to pause and consider if now is a good time to change the way we think about education. This is indeed an interesting question.
One could make the case that technology has saved the school year. Teachers have taken to the electronic format with an amazing display of flexibility, and in many cases using programs and devices they had never used before. Even teachers who had a dislike for technology have had to step up to the plate and embrace their computers in ways they had never thought they would. Technology has made it possible to continue to deliver the core course content and keep students engaged with their school work. But here we need to ask an important question: What is education?
Ask teachers why they love to teach, and nine out of ten times the answer will include that they love that moment when they see in a student’s eyes that ‘the lights go on.’ This can happen with one-on-one interaction with a student, or it can be in collaborative interaction with a whole class, when all the lights go on at once! The reason why this is such an amazing moment is because the teacher’s goal is to develop a level of understanding that allows for the next layer of understanding to be placed. This way the teacher uses the incremental introduction of new knowledge to help the students grow in actually understanding the topic. Seeing the lights go on means ‘objective achieved and time to move on.’ Not being able to gauge the students’ understanding that way is a significant downfall to using technology as the main delivery vehicle in education. Certainly, delivering content is possible, but without the direct interaction between teacher and students it is very difficult to develop real understanding.
In addition to that, now that we have had a number of weeks of on-line teaching behind us, it is also very clear that technology limits the amount of learning that can take place. Most schools are only focussing on a few core subjects, and even in these courses the expectations are drastically reduced to prevent over-burdening the home situation where all the work needs to be done.
Looking at this from the perspective of Reformed education, one could also add that technology, albeit an amazing tool, limits the personal aspect of a covenantal relationship; a relationship where one generation teaches the next about the mighty deeds of the Lord. At CCRTC we stress to our students that a very important part of being an effective teacher is to develop a personal relationship with the students and to be a living example of what a life of faith looks like. This is very hard to do when communicating on a digital platform.
It is true, we live in unprecedented times. It is also true that technology has given us novel ways to work with our students, and a possible blessing in all this is that many teachers have found ways to use technology more effectively in their teaching. But good education is more than delivering content, and in order to learn, students will always need teachers who know them well and have a good relationship with them. It has always been that way.
Like the Teacher said: “There is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9)