Technology and student access to technology has changed significantly since I was last in the classroom. I know that I have colleagues that ban the use of technology in their classes because of legitimate concerns about the distractions technology can create for students. However, I worry that banning technology creates an environment that is unnecessarily constrained and as I prepare to return to teaching in the fall, I want to set policies and expectations in my classes that create an environment best facilitates student learning. I believe technology has a place in that environment.
I do worry that allowing students to have access to smart phones, smart watches, tablets, and computers may create distractions that negatively impact student learning. But I believe that I have a responsibility to make my classes interesting and active enough that students are not easily tempted to distract themselves with technology and that I also have a responsibility to have ongoing conversations with my students about appropriate use of technology in the classroom.
The use of technology in the classroom should reflect three key values:
- That we are here for a common purpose – education. Use of technology in the classroom by the faculty member and the students should always support student learning.
- That the classroom should be a place of mutual respect. I, as the teacher, need to respect how students understand and use technology to best support their own learning (though I might engage students in a discussion about the research that shows handwriting is better than typing for taking notes). I also need to be sympathetic to valid reasons students may have that require them to communicate with others during class time. Students need to respect my efforts to create a classroom environment and to organize the course in ways that support the learning of all students. Students also need to respect their fellow classmates and their classmates’ rights not to be distracted from participating fully in the classroom.
- That the classroom must be an inclusive environment. Technology can support an inclusive environment but it also can undermine that environment. Technology can provide students with tools to support their individual learning styles and provide needed accommodations for students with disabilities. However, because all students may not have equal access to technology, use of technologies that are not available to all students may put some students at a disadvantage and/or create an environment in the classroom that may be perceived by some students as unwelcoming or unfair. Creating and sustaining an inclusive environment in a climate of technological change requires ongoing conversations and awareness of these issues by both students and faculty.
Access to technology in the classroom can allow students to respond to impromptu polls and to conduct searches of the internet. Technology can also support in-class collaboration activities and provide students with tools that support their individual learning styles or provide accommodations for their learning needs. Because technology is continually evolving, I do not want to create a firm set of rules regarding the use of technology in my classroom. Therefore, policies concerning the appropriate use of technology in my courses will require ongoing conversations between my students and me. I will use the values of education, mutual respect, and inclusivity to provide the foundations for those conversations.
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