Too much of a good thing? Overuse of technology in the classroom.

When academics gather to discuss teaching practices in the traditional classroom, not the on-line classroom, the topic of technology often comes up. Numerous research studies  have shown the benefits of technology in the classroom, and it is a well established tenant that instruction must be geared toward tomorrow. According to Lev Vygotsky, “Instruction must be oriented toward the future, not the past. The only good kind of instruction is that which marches ahead of development, and leads it; it must be aimed not so much at the ripe- -as the ripening functions” Lev Vygotsky, Thought and Language, 1997

What many teachers rarely discuss is the potential negatives of using technology in the classroom. One such negative is its overuse.  According to Pagnucci, Mauriello and Winner, when teachers of writing first introduce technology in the writing classroom, there is a “displacement” that takes place between the course content and the instruction of using the technology, whereas in traditional writing classrooms, teachers very rarely spend valuable class time explaining how to use pen and paper. They argue, “This reshaping displaces traditional writing activities with technology-based instruction, thus challenging the notion of what constitutes appropriate curricular content within the composition classroom. This curricular change necessitates political action on the part of technology-focused teachers, for instance the establishment of new types of teaching collaboratives and the rethinking of departmental policies.” Click here for more information.

“Reading Between the Code: The Teaching of HTML and the Displacement of Writing Instruction.” Computers & Composition, (December, 1999).

The message for teachers who choose to use technology in the classroom is clear — make sure the technology compliments the curriculum– not overpowers it. Additionally, teachers have to make the necessary changes in their class plans to adopt technology into their traditional curriculum. Failure to do so, according to these authors, will end up allowing the technology to overshadow the course goals.

Explore posts in the same categories: Educational Technology

4 Comments on “Too much of a good thing? Overuse of technology in the classroom.”

  1. Tracy Rosen Says:

    Yes – reflection is a prerequisite for adopting any new kind of practice!

    You mention the displacement between course content and tech instruction. Like with any new learning tool, it should never be taught while teaching new content. I won’t teach how to use a new type of pen and paper graphic organizer for writing while teaching a new content piece either. Actually, I don’t see why special consideration needs to be given for addressing this issue with technology. It is another teaching/learning tool.

    Another thing to remember is that many of the technologies we use in the classrooms today, while they may seem new to the teacher, aren’t always so new to the students. I don’t find that I am spending a lot of time teaching how to use technology and we use lots of it in class. When I do need to give a how to class, that is what it is and it comes before and is distinct from content.

    Good post!

  2. Tracy Says:

    As most of us know, there is a lot of debate over what role technology should play in the classroom. It is obvious that educational technology can enhance learning in many situations, but like stated above, it can also interupt learning. I think that this is specifically a problem when it comes to lessons in writing. Not only can technology interupt instruction of a writing lesson, but it can interupt the practice of writing, which students obviously need. Speacking mostly on the behalf of younger children, what else to they need to learn to write besides a pen or pencil? Perhaps an example outside of education will help clear up what I am trying to say. Currently when you drive a new car, you can push a couple buttons and it can show you how to parallel park. For those of us who already know how, but just don’t like to do it, that is great. But what about future drivers? Will they ever learn how to parallel park on there own first, or will they be more concentrated on how to get the car to do it for them? Is it possible that computer technology could have the same effect on children learning to write?

  3. Tracy Rosen Says:

    If your lesson is teaching children how to do the physical task of scratching ink on to paper then yes, technology would certainly get in the way.

    But what are we teaching children when we are teaching writing? Except for those students who learn through writing – less than 1/3 in most classes – the physical act is only a vehicle for expression.

    I teach how to express thought in an organized manner, how to communicate effectively through text, how to use interesting words to communicate thought. How to build an argument, how to persuade…and many more things.

    In fact, the physical action of writing – putting pen to paper – interrupts learning for many students. Students with fine motor control issues do not express thought to their full potential because the action of writing gets in the way of expression. Other students are so concerned with the appearance of their writing that they constantly write, erase, write, erase to the point that expression is very limited.

    In both of those cases the obstacle between thought and expression can be overcome with technology.

    I would love to hear specific examples of how technology interrupts learning in the teaching of writing.

  4. msujc Says:

    Hello, Just wrote a post wth a similar look at technology. I also posed the question as to whether students have become to reliant on the use of technology. I used the example of some students not having basic math skills but are able to to the work when using calculators. These students may always have great test scores because they know how to click keys on a calculator, but does this give us good math students or just good test takers. Please post back on my blog if you’d like ony any new ideas you have since you originally created this post, the address for the post inspired by this one is

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