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.