How much technology is too much?

Source: Quinn Dombrowski, creativecommons.org

I have taught exclusively online for two and half years. During this time, the number of digital tools in my arsenal has skyrocketed. I have been consumed by technology. I used to feel sorry for “computer nerds” who squirrelled away in their basements, rarely coming up for air. And now I am one of them.

On one hand, there is a certain “thrill of the find” in mastering a new platform to engage the students, but on the other, the hours are incalculable. Take for example, one of my latest conquests, Genially; an amazing program bursting with interactive media, gamification, and animations. The options are endless! You can even take your students on a virtual field trip to anywhere in the world.

I pour over these presentations, every slide a piece of movable art, as I zealously integrate an array of illustrations, colours, and backgrounds before deciding that they aren’t quite right and search for more. I make the elements soar up, down, and across the screen. I fill boxes with teachable content and drag them around. Then it’s time to embed activity links and pop-up windows. Finally, I click presentation mode to ensure that everything is working as it should. This goes on, and on, and on until I feel like Alice falling down the rabbit hole. The technology rabbit hole.

The other day, I mused about whether the students even care that I have made these stunning presentations. Obviously, I want to pique their interest but, honestly, do they even notice? As for the interactive teaching components, how much time is lost with instructions, login problems, connection derailments, and uncharged batteries? Time that the students could have spent, well, learning?

The other day, I listened to a podcast on the use of technology in education. Here is what some of the experts had to say:

  • First, that having the students use technology is more valuable than our using it. Indeed, why should I dazzle my students with my savvy presentation skills when they should be dazzling me with their brain power?

  • Second, that we should ask students about the types of technology they prefer.

  • Third, that the value of any digital tool is “neutral”; the way in which the student uses it to learn is what makes it powerful. In other words, don’t use technology for the sake of it.

  • And fourth, that not all students love technology the way we think they do. Some are tired of it and find it a hassle.

To be honest, I am physically and mentally drained from all the time spent in my rabbit hole. Time spent learning the next big online tool and fretting over my digital presentations. And who’s to say that the students aren’t too?

This is what I know for certain: I need to climb out of that hole. I need to focus more on pedagogy and less on technology. I also need to get out more.

Hi everyone. I’m Jennifer Hutchison and I teach EAP and communications at George Brown College in Toronto. I also teach a sociolinguistic course in the English Foundation Program at Ryerson University. In my spare time, I write short stories, read, exercise, and bake (the last two are codependent). Teaching English is my passion. I am curious about the world around me and feel fortunate to have that world brought to me every day in the classroom. Nevertheless, I took a circuitous route to discover this passion. After my undergraduate degree in French and translation, I worked as a translator and then veered off into writing and editing, which I did from home while I raised my children (four of them!). In none of these positions (except, possibly, childrearing) was I helping anybody, so I returned to school, launched my ESL career, and have never looked back. I look forward to working with you and sharing experiences and strategies on the Blog!

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8 thoughts on “How much technology is too much?”

  1. Hi Jennifer,

    Wow! This post truly resonated with me. I love how you came to the realization that it was time to resurface from the rabbit hole. I used to spend countless hours making elaborate Prezi and Power Point presentations. Although I still like using new technological learning tools, I do, just like you, admit sometimes, it is not necessary. I now use technology with moderation.

    The best part of your post? Your closing, “I need to climb out of that hole. I need to focus more on pedagogy and less on technology.” This is one of the trademarks of a great educator: being able to acknowledge they need to change their ways; most important, you underlined the need for all of us to focus more on pedagogy rather than the latest technology. Doing what’s best for our students and what empowers them is our mission. Technology, as you so eloquently put it, should help, not hinder.

    Thank you for sharing! Your piece really made me think.

    1. Thank you for your comments, Daniela.

      I am glad that it resonates with you. I may go back to whiteboard and markers when I am back in the classroom!

      My favourite line from your response is “Doing what’s best for our students and what empowers them is our mission.”

      Thanks again,

      Jennifer

  2. Jennifer,
    I agree that most teachers should be taking a breath of fresh air and reassessing their technology diets and practices.

    Not too make this any more depressing, but I think that many of us have forgotten about the myriad of technologies that teachers were interacting and laboring with before the Pandemic. In 2009, I wrote about this as I was noticing how much of the administrative duties of educators were being dumped on teachers responsibilities. See https://issuu.com/tesolarabia-perspectives/docs/jun_2009 Pages 23 to 26.

    I should update the list of technologies in this article as some are out-of-date.

    thanks for making us reflect,

    John

  3. Thanks for your comment, John and for sharing the link to your article from 2009. A good reminder that we have indeed been immersed in technology for some time now.

    Also a reminder that the list keeps growing. I think it’s here to stay. We just have to learn to tame the beast!

    Cheers,

    Jennifer

  4. Hi Jennifer,

    So interesting. Thank you.

    I may pore over mounds of information online ,looking for specific information- the answer ,”transmitted” orally in a few sentences,could have saved me lots of wasted time.

    I have to learn how to skim/scan/ synthesize?!

    K I S S. Keep it short and simple. Simple to complex .

    Maintaining/ studying a language,additional language is challenging:

    Challenging ?…just remembering basics, let alone processing all the exciting options technology offers.

    Some final thoughts:

    Mens Sana in Corpore Sano!

    1: Keep fit Exercise,good posture particularly for hours spent in front of a computer.

    2. Memory retention exercises.

    3 .Be aware of time…waking up one day, tech -time could have been spent more wisely ,really enjoying ,appreciating family,friends,nature.

    5 Don’t discount hard copy…

    Regards

    Darryl

  5. There is an undertow there in your article… the power of reflection.

    Thank you for sharing your experience and insights.

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