Manage technology to make it useful in class

A geography class for Secondary 1 students at Queenstown Secondary School.
A geography class for Secondary 1 students at Queenstown Secondary School. ST PHOTO: AZMI ATHNI

It is convenient to call technology in classrooms - the use of laptops and tablets, for instance - a "distraction" which hinders learning ("Laptops in class: Learning aid or distraction?"; last Friday), when the management of technology should be the focus.

In other words, instead of blaming technology for hindering student development, it would be more useful to concurrently evaluate and improve pedagogies within school environments.

While it may be true that teaching is "about interaction between people, about discussion, about conversations", technology could facilitate interactions across these three dimensions, and it should fall on schools and their educators to craft reasonable modes of engagement.

Furthermore, the conclusion by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development that "the reality is that technology is doing more harm than good in our society" can be - and should be - considered a problem.

My experiences with technology in education have been mixed, yet, the more effective iterations were often premised on good planning by administrators and educators.

As part of a small writing and critical thinking class at university, my peers and I were each loaned a tablet, through which we were expected to do our readings, annotate and make notes, as well as prepare presentations.

Familiarising oneself with the technicalities or negotiating new applications might have been challenging in the beginning, but administratively, the classroom was wired seamlessly, such that screens from any of our tablets could be projected during classroom discussions.

Our professor facilitated these transitions effectively - thereby enriching the lessons - and he also highlighted how we could leverage technology for research: aggregating key terms, collaborating on projects, and conducting efficient literature review, for example.

Professor Glenn Finger of Griffith University was right about a balanced approach, and that "to go the other way and not use any technology at all may not be productive either".

A blended approach, combining technology and teaching, is possible, especially since few will dispute the importance of developing familiarity, and perhaps even mastery, of technology.

The problem lies not with technology, but how we use it.

Kwan Jin Yao

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 07, 2016, with the headline 'Manage technology to make it useful in class'. Print Edition | Subscribe