Ed Tech

Technology: an inalienable right of students

Technology: an inalienable right of students

We want classes to be relevant, and we want to use the best teaching methods possible. To remove those from student hands would compromise their education. (flickr / hackny)

Technology is increasingly present and involved in our communities.

To stay relevant, schools have followed along. Students are adding smartphones, tablets and computers alongside — or in place of — textbooks and traditional learning materials.

As our favorite and most powerful apps, websites, networks and devices become more interconnected with our lives and with education, it begs the question:

Is technology in schools a privilege or right to students?

The Indiana eLearning Twitter chat (at #INeLearn on Twitter at 8 p.m. EST Thursdays) will broach that very topic on Feb. 27 (about a week and a half from this post). Thanks to some prompting from moderator Michelle Green, it got me thinking.

And that thinking left me very conflicted.

(But being conflicted is no way to write a blog post, is it?)

So it has forced me to go back to some fundamentals in education.

We want our classes to be relevant to our students’ lives. And they must be relevant to our students’ future lives — when they’re in the workforce, contributing to our communities and society. As the saying goes, we’re providing them a great disservice if we prepare students for our own future.

Also, we want to use the best methods possible to help students learn. If we’ve found (and I hope we have!) that lecturing for an hour isn’t as effective as engaging students in real-world projects or thought-provoking questions, then we have to cut out as much lecturing as possible.

In light of those fundamentals, I think we can come to only one conclusion.

Technology must be a inalienable right to students.

In medicine, if a new instrument or technology-assisted procedure improved a surgery by shortening recovery time or reducing the risk of infection, there’s no fathomable reason why we would limit doctors from using it.

In education, students should be afforded the opportunity to use the tools that will help them learn best. When schools tell them to put their cell phones away or limit access to sites when students have valid educational purposes for them, it’s like asking an emergency medical technician to save a life with one hand tied behind his/her back.

I fully admit that this declaration makes part of me cringe. I think of the time wasted playing Flappy Bird and posting selfies to Instagram and wonder how we could turn this easily-abused power over to students.

I also think of the entitlement that so many students feel these days, and I certainly don’t want to play in to that.

In the end, though, I go back to the fundamentals. We have to be relevant, and we have to use the best tools at our disposal.

Plus, we have to trust our students. We have to help them to be accountable, too, but we have to trust them.

Teachers have to have the ability to use their best options to teach. Students get the same right with learning.

And if students don’t learn how to navigate this quickly-changing world without the tools and techniques they’ll need, we’re providing them a disservice.

Sure, they’re going to waste time online if we make technology a right. They’ll abuse it. But adults do, too. And what we consider abuse by wasted time may spark a passion that lasts a lifetime.

As time goes on, technology is a way of life. We have to reflect that in our classrooms.

(For notifications of new Ditch That Textbook content and helpful links, “like” Ditch That Textbook on Facebook and follow @jmattmiller on Twitter!)

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