At the conclusion of an informative debate led by colleagues Bob, Katherine, Ian, and Ainsley, I had no idea who had won. Both sides presented compelling and thought provoking articles that caused me to think deeply about my stance. After additional research and time to ponder, I believe that technology can be an equating force in society, but it will require meaningful and long term government support.
The provincial government has supported recent technological advances with the implementation of Robot Doctors in remote locations of Saskatchewan. These robots have lead to a reduction in expensive medical evacuations and have certainly brought more equity to the remote parts of the province.
Educational Assistive Technology
Assistive Technology (AT) has become a stabilizing force in the lives of students with various learning difficulties. Some of the more effective programs are Kurzweil, which converts text into computer generated speech, and Dragon Speech, which can convert your speech into written text. The research states that in order for these technologies to be used seamlessly with our students, they must become part of the class DNA.
Once the AT is accepted as a regular routine in the classroom, rather than a cumbersome annoyance, then the learning ability of all students can improve.
Government Support Essential
At this point, everything sounds great. So where does the support of the government come into play? The single biggest drawback of Assistive Technology in the classroom is the inefficiency. And the inefficiency comes from under-trained teachers or too few teacher assistants. In the past, the government has invested money to bring technology to the classroom, but there have been oversights on their part. For example, there may be several class sets of laptops or tablets in a school, but the broadband strength of the Wifi can not support all of the devices at the same time. Furthermore, schools may pay for subscriptions to various technology sites and applications, but if the school staff is not given proper training on how to efficiently use these applications, then they are pushed to the side and ignored.
With technology in the classroom, to be all-in, or not at all. I believe AT can provide numerous benefits to students of all learning styles and abilities, but it can only be accomplished with proper training and support. Technology itself will not lead to an increase it student marks. Instead, we have to be willing to invest in the teachers as well. Teachers, who have been properly trained and informed on the best use of technology and the associative benefits will be ready to pass this knowledge on to their students, which helps to benefit everyone. However, if teachers training is ignored and underemphasized, then technology will benefit very few of our students and will not allow it to be an equitable force in our society.
An analogy would be giving each of your students a brand new bike, but not teaching them how to ride it. Sure, some may figure it out on their own, but how many will fall flat on their face?
Therefore, let’s invest in technology and our teachers to ensure that our students have a smooth ride.