PIDP 3100/2 – The Impact of Technology on Student Engagement Part 2

Objective:

The objective of this blog post is to consider The Impact of Technology on Student Engagement. My original blog post can be seen here.

My assignment partner, Mr. Craig Lovell, wrote a blog post called Technology and the Adult Learner – Engaged or Distracted.

Technology in the Classroom – How It Changes the Role of the Instructor

california2007 359
photo by John Powszedny 2007

As a new instructor, I want to find out how the trends of technology are impacting student engagement in the modern classroom.

In today’s society, technology is omnipresent. Virtually everybody is impacted by the ubiquitous use of smartphones, computers, and other gadgets. It impacts many aspects of our lives; travel, work, hobbies, and time management. Much of our communication is delivered electronically through emails and text messaging.

In James Bryson’s “Engaging Adult Learners: Philosophy, Principles and Practices” (2003), he states that while a perfect level of “barrier free learning” is not entirely attainable, continuous improvement of providing education to a diverse population is attainable.  Therefore, continuous improvement should always be considered.

principal based practices
Image from Bryson (2003 p. 14)

Examples of barriers to consider are that some learners:

  • are reluctant readers
  • have become technology dependent (obsessed? addicted?)
  • are transactive (do not memorize, rather they learn to find online etc.)
  • prefer passive learning to active learning

Bryson goes on to say that each barrier is an opportunity for the teacher’s skill development.  

Lovell’s post considers the impacts of technology to the instructor:

  • Wealth of information can also provide both opportunities and challenges for the instructor.
  • Sophisticated learning management systems (LMS), such as Moodle, can supply evidence of a students access to information, resources and learning. This can provide insight to the learners’ engagement
  • The need for familiarity with resources available to students. Guide them to quality resources.
  • Classroom management of acceptable gadget use could include:
    • Audio recording the lesson (with teacher’s permission)
    • Looking up unknown words
    • Adding peers to their contacts list
    • Photographing board work or homework assignments
    • Sharing photos when related to class content (for example, family photos on a family unit or holiday pictures on a holidays unit
    • Doing web searches
    • Using the calendar to schedule meetings with other students

Technology tools available in my classroom to use include:

  • Document Camera. These devices use a camera that projects real time video from a tabletop platform. Similar in size and shape to the traditional overhead projector, they are a welcome improvement.
  • Digital Projector. It can be linked to a laptop (ex. animations, simulators, Powerpoint, Youtube) or a document camera
  • Industrial Controllers. Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs) and Distributed Control Systems (DCSs). Real equipment used in the labs.

In their presentation “Engaging Adults Learners with Technology“Saint Mary’s College of Minnesota suggests the following software for using technology in the adult classroom:

Forums are another tool for the instructor to engage students and peers. An example is the forums I administered regarding Positive Learning Environments and Technology: Classroom Tool or Distraction?

My role as a teacher is to:

  • Identify and mitigate barriers to learning ” And each time we find ways to reduce barriers to student learning, we reduce barriers to our own enjoyment and satisfaction as teachers” (Bryson 2003)
  • Accommodate diversity (the students aren’t going to change so I should)
  • Embrace technology (if you aren’t moving with the times then you are standing still)
  • Continuously make improvements

The impact for me as an instructor is that I am expected to be an experienced user of all these technologies. As technology improves, new methods and uses are continuous. The instructor must continuously stay focused on their hardware and software skills. The more skilled use of technology by the instructor, the better the motivation and active learning, and thus the greater the student engagement (active learning * motivation = student engagement)[1]

The Impact of Technology and Students’ Engagement

california2007 063
photo by John Powszedny 2007

The sheer magnitude of information available online is intimidating. The students are impacted immensely through bombardment of information. If we require them to use gadgets to learn, how do we ensure that the students are not distracted by the billions of websites and applications on the everyday smart-phone?

Mr. Lovell postulated one way to reach out to the younger students would be to make a game out of learning.  For an on-line learning example, if students were to earn credits, tokens, or other certification while learning, there would be more satisfaction at achieving progressive levels and tasks.  He theorized that “gamification” would increase satisfaction in the learning.

It has been my observation that younger students are more comfortable with using electronic devices than older students.  They have always been around technology, take information for granted, and are adept at finding out what is relevant (and what isn’t).

My classroom includes a diverse cross-section of society ranging in age from 20-50. I asked them “Do you prefer classroom lectures or online learning?” and the entire class preferred classroom lectures. I also got negative feedback regarding Youtube videos (was called a time waster) but did get good reviews for my powerpoint animations.

From this, I conclude that the students want to make efficient use of classroom time. Recommended links to resources, forums, youtube videos etc. can be posted for non-classroom time study material, but don’t necessarily need to consume classroom time.

 What I Learned From My Assignment Partner:

My assignment partner, Mr. Craig Lovell, has created a blog called Technology and the Adult Learner – Engaged or Distracted

Lovell’s opening remark “With the proliferation of technology these days its hard not to feel like its a smorgasbord” has an interesting food metaphor, including his later references to technology-based learning being “fast food” learning.  If an individual wants information on a subject, he or she can simply “google it.” With “endless information available to us anywhere  at any time in multiple formats on multiple devices” Lovell questions the impact on learning, whether it helps or hinder the process of learning engagement.

The issue is whether the self-directed learner having access to “heaps of information” helps with engagement or distract from the learning. Lovell’s example: “Simply Googling ‘adult learning engagement’ for this post yielded over three million results!  Rather than feeling ‘engaged’ I felt a bit more ‘overwhelmed’…but equally thankful for the wealth of information available.”

In our interview and in his post, Lovell considers elements of “gamifying” learning. Gamifying refers to breaking learning down to small sized pieces that offer rewards (ex. tokens, levels, competition). This is similar to a video game, where there are levels to go through to complete a task or certification. The idea is to increase engagement by making the learning more fun by being progressively challenging.

Lovell’s post considers the impacts of technology to the instructor:

  • Wealth of information can also provide both opportunities and challenges for the instructor.
  • Sophisticated learning management systems (LMS), such as Moodle, can supply evidence of a students access to information, resources and learning. This can provide insight to the learners’ engagement
  • The need for familiarity with resources available to students. Guide them to quality resources.
  • Classroom management of acceptable gadget use could include:
    • Audio recording the lesson (with teacher’s permission)
    • Looking up unknown words
    • Adding peers to their contacts list
    • Photographing board work or homework assignments
    • Sharing photos when related to class content (for example, family photos on a family unit or holiday pictures on a holidays unit
    • Doing web searches
    • Using the calendar to schedule meetings with other students

Lovell concludes with the wisdom that “As educators we need to  set the table and provide a  buffet filled with all sort of options that encourage ‘healthy eating’.   As a general rule for most diets we can also indulge in a few treats along the way; everything in moderation.”

Conclusions

Upon reflecting on the research of Lovell and myself, my conclusions are as follows:

  • The internet has increased the quantity of information available, but it has not increased the quality of information available
  • There are certainly more websites to visit than I personally have time for (an understatement)
  • The source of online information should be vetted for reliability (National Libraries for example)
  • Identify and mitigate barriers to learning ” And each time we find ways to reduce barriers to student learning, we reduce barriers to our own enjoyment and satisfaction as teachers” (Bryson 2003)
  • Accommodate diversity (the students aren’t going to change so I should)
  • Embrace technology (if you aren’t moving with the times then you are standing still)
  • Continuously make improvements
  • Opinions are like armpits; everybody’s got one

Personal Reflections (Bonus Rant)

What a far cry from ancient times, when scholars traveled great distances in caravans to seek knowledge in libraries. The quest for knowledge is now at everyone’s fingertips. No effort required.

Fading away are the mental exercises required for finding the knowledge. If an individual wants an opinion or thought on a concept, he or she can “google it” and voila, there it is.

All this exposure to knowledge has a caveat: You cannot believe everything you read on the internet! There is a lot of information and misinformation out there. You want to find out how flat is the earth?  (207 million hits on google). Did Apollo 11 land on the moon? Is Putin a great president? Are there aliens among us? Who will win the Stanley Cup? You may look for the information with a preconceived notion about it, and using that as a filter, can seek out an opinion that agrees with your preconceived notion.

References and Links

Merriam & Bierema, Adult Learning- Linking Theory and Practice (2014 Jossey-Bass)

Elizabeth Barkley – Student Engagement Techniques – A Handbook for College Faculty (2010 Jossey-Bass)

James Bryson “Engaging Adult Learners: Philosophy, Principles and Practices” (2003) http://northernc.on.ca/leid/docs/engagingadultlearners.pdf

Lovell’s blog https://pidpcraigdlovell.wordpress.com/2016/04/06/technology-and-the-adult-learner-engaged-or-distracted/

My blog https://wordpress.com/post/powszedny.wordpress.com/

Positive Learning Environments http://moodle.vcc.ca/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=148377

 Technology: Classroom Tool or Distraction  http://moodle.vcc.ca/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=148659

Engaging Adults Learners with Technology   http://digitalcommons.macalester.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1236&context=libtech_conf

[1] Barkley 2010 p. 6

 

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