Week 11, Activity 1The Economist debate: ‘The continuing introduction of new technologies and newmedia adds little to the quality of most education.’1. (Considering the proposition) Right now, would you vote For or Against, and why?At this point in time I would be inclined to vote For the proposal being put forward. From myexperience of working with teachers, technology is not a magic bullet and the classroomenvironment can often present a number of barriers. In fact, when talking to PGCE students (i.e.trainee teachers), the most striking thing to learn from them was that they felt technology was anadd-on and very much a hassle – when planning a lesson with technology, they had always to have aplan B (same lesson but without technology) and pretty much always had to resort to someelements of plan B as things invariably went wrong.2. The opening remarks (The main arguments being put forward/ The types of argumentused/ Any changes to your own thinking)The proposer’s remarks focus on the unrealised potential of technology in the classroom whileproviding examples of successful implementation of educational technology (one of which happensto be the Open University!). The remarks of the opposition focus on a meta-analysis of a set ofstudies which show that technology can make a statistically significant difference to studentexperience; he also addresses the issue of unrealised potential, arguing that most of these studiesemerged in the context of a more traditional education paradigm and so the potential of technologymight be even greater if we were able to be more adventurous when it comes to learning methods.He also touches upon some fundamental questions about what should be the role of the schools –should they equip the learners with technological skills or should they be a space that focuses moreon teaching students social skills and works on the assumption that their everyday life is saturatedwith technology anyway?3. Rebuttal remarks (The style or ‘discourse’ being used/ What ‘evidence’ is being drawnupon/ any changes to your own thinking)The moderator points out here that both sides are actually focusing on the same issue, that is the(unrealised) potential of technology for learning and brings up the issue of resources needed tosupport changes within the classroom. The moderator’s remarks also focus on impact of technologyon education – both in terms of impact on individual students and impact on educational systemsmore in general. I found this distinction quite interesting and helpful in terms of thinking whatchanges when we introduce technology within the classroom – i.e. is it just about students learninghow to use a particular device or do they also gain skills which are more generic in nature where forinstance through use of a mobile device they can also improve their critical thinking skills etc. Theproposer’s remarks suggest that the introduction of new technologies has not been accompanied bya shift in educational paradigm and hence little has changed in terms of quality; he also adds that itis the educators, rather than the tools that constitute the key component of quality education. Theopposition draws on a number of studies that provide positive examples of where the potential oftechnology has been realised and where instead of being used as an add-on, technology was anintegral part of the pedagogical approach.
4. Featured guest comments (Whose comments had the most impact on you and why?/ Dolater ‘speakers’ have an advantage over earlier ones?/ Any changes to your own thinking)Don Knezekfocuses on the sense of empowerment that technology can give to the learners andexpand the educational possibilities open to learners who may otherwise be disadvantaged becauseof being in remote or isolated areas. Kevin Bushweller reiterates the need to consider the impact ofeducation initiatives on learning; at the same time, while measuring impact and being accountable isimportant, the sense of innovation should not be lost. Professor Linda Darling-Hammond reiteratesthe need to balance technology with human interaction and that the aim of technology is not toreplace the teacher; instead it is a tool that will reach its full potential only when accompanied bysound pedagogical approach. I think I found her comments most persuasive perhaps because theytally with my own experience of interacting with the teachers and witnessing their attempts tointroduce technology within the classroom. She also recognised that technology is not a magicbullet, especially when used as an add-on or in a mechanical way.5. The closing remarks – (What you think the role of the moderator has been/ Anything elsethat has occurred to you during this exercise about the content and form of this type ofdebate)The proposer keeps arguing that the potential of technology to make a wider impact on quality ofeducation remains unrealised and that the current focus seems to be on acquiring a narrow range ofICT skills. The opposition’s comments focus on a number of examples from all over the world wheretechnology has led to lasting and positive changes to quality of education; both in terms of impact“in the trenches”, i.e. schools where individual teachers are taking advantage of technology toexpand the educational opportunities available to their students but also in terms of more systemicchanges, with examples of education ministries redesigning national systems around opportunitiesprovided by new technologies. The moderator makes an interesting comment about some of thevoices which were absent from the debate, namely the parents.Through the debate, the moderator kept summarising the ideas brought forward by the oppositionand the proposers while attempting to shape the debate and move it forward. I find the format quiteinteresting, I am vaguely reminded of some school-based debates which are based on a similarpremise and believe that it is a good way of promoting academic ideas in a way that is accessible tothe wider public. The participants in the debate were drawing on a range of academic studies butbecause they needed to contain their “speeches” within a pre-determined word limit, the speechesdid not end up being academic treatises; instead, they were quite enjoyable.