Technology enhances learning…for some

Reading through the blogs of my classmates, such as those of Ashley and Elizabeth, it appears as though I am not the only one who finds that they are somewhere in between the Agree and Disagree sides. I find myself wanting to agree that technology enhances learning. However, my experiences working in the field of education in Nunavut, in addition to the arguments presented in the debate, tell me that there is not a simple yes or no stance to this argument. I also acknowledge that my perspective is influenced by living in Nunavut which is a technologically deprived area of Canada.

Typical Nunavut community

Photo Credit: tumitaittuq via Compfightcc

To give you a little taste of the state of our technology here, some communities still do not have cell phone service and for those that do, it’s often unreliable. If you want internet, the monthly plans are often capped at a maximum of 20GB and will run you as much as $180/month. But don’t worry because with that you will receive a download speed around 256 kbps…or slower! These realities influence the amount of technology found in a typical Nunavut classroom and has limited my opportunities to see all that educational technology has to offer.

On the Agree side of the argument, the debaters did a good job of helping me to see some of the benefits of technology. Their strongest arguments were that technology improves access to education for students with learning disabilities, connects students globally, eliminates geographical barriers, and engages children in learning. These were all strong points that would have had me jumping to the agree side of the debate if it weren’t for the voice in my head saying “but what about the students who …”

  • don’t live in an area that has adequate broadband to support interned based educational technologies
  • don’t speak a language supported by educational technologies
  • don’t receive support at home to use technology
  • have a special need that is not supported by educational technology
  • don’t attend schools with money to purchase programs, apps, etc. or to train teachers in how to meaningfully integrate the technology

These thoughts of mine seemed to resonate well with the arguments presented by the disagree side of the debate, specifically, about the lack of training that teachers receive for educational technology and the cost of educational technologies.

I agree with Elizabeth’s statement that educational technology enhances learning when used properly. I would also add that how privileged a student is affects how much their learning is enhanced. The privileges of the child could be socioeconomic, geographic, physical, etc. So, while I believe that, yes, technology enhances learning, I believe that it enhances learning for those students who live in the right place, speak the right language, have the right support at home, and have a TPACK and SAMR savvy teacher. To leave you with a little food for thought, check out Andrew Essex’s TedTalk on the role of technology in education and how it is creating an achievement gap – a digital divide.

In describing the Million program, he leaves us with some optimism for how, with a little creativity and support of the tech industry, we can reach out to those students who typically don’t benefit as much from technology.


14 thoughts on “Technology enhances learning…for some

  1. Great post Ainsley! When I wrote my post, I definitely did not think about students in locations who did not have access to the technology that others can take for granted. It certainly illustrates how location plays a large role in the methods for teaching students. You have given me more to think about and I look forward to reading your next post.

  2. Great Ted talk — thanks for posting it. I wonder whether something like this could be brought to Saskatchewan to help inctease attendence and engagement with fnmi students.

  3. Great Ted talk — thanks for posting it. I wonder whether something like this could be brought to Saskatchewan to help increase attendance and engagement with FNMI students.

  4. It must be difficult to integrate technology when it is so limited. I’m sure you will hear so many great ideas throughout this semester that would be useful in a classroom, but it might be hard for you to take advantage of it with slow connections and limited access. I hope that the technology gap can be bridged and that isolated areas don’t have to live with such limited access. Of course there are costs involved and I know that it isn’t always as easy to implement things as we would like to think.

  5. Thanks for sharing your first hand experience with some of the technological inhibitors that can be created by geography. I’m definitely with you, on the fact that technology has some great features, however, it creates a digital divide for many as well, thus creating some less appealing features for some. I enjoyed reading your blog and the real life connections that you made to this week’s topic! Thanks for sharing!

  6. I completely agree with you! There are so many things about technology that are taken for granted, but in actuality are luxuries. I think it was also brought up in the debate about equal access at home and making adaptations for students who don’t have access.
    So then, should the Nunavut government work towards a more “first world” access to internet, or is a low priority (given all of the other challenges of Northern living)?

    • Great question! Improvements to broadband have been among the priorities of the Government of Nunavut for many years now, but it has been hard to find a private company interested in tackling this logistically difficult and costly venture. There is also the fear that even with improved broadband the costs will remain high due to the lack of competition in this market. Since starting this course, I have found that I’m paying more attention to what is currently happening here to improve our access to internet and I came across this interesting article. Are there areas in Northern Saskatchewan that are underserved by internet access? I wonder what strategies they employ to deal with this issue?

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  8. Yes, the technological gap must be narrowed – especially since we now live in a world that is so “techie”. How do we narrow that gap? I wish I had the answer to that. Great post – loved hearing from someone that is effected by the lack of technology, really opens ones eyes to how some people are truly effected by the lack of technology or the means to obtain it.

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  10. Great post, Ainsley! I love your perspective as it differs from the rest of us because of your geographical location. Sometimes I forget how different things can be elsewhere (which, really, I should be more aware of different circumstances around Canada). Loved your point on privilege; you are absolutely right that it plays a part in both the access to technology and how one uses it. I look forward to hearing more about your points of view on these topics in the coming weeks!

    By the way, although it has nothing to do with this class, your dog-sled team just looks wonderful!

  11. Hey Ainsley. I don’t know why the first blog it didn’t register that you are in Nunavut NOW. That is so amazing to me. Thanks for posting that great Ted talk. Off the subject – had no idea the T in Ted talk stands for ‘technology’ And on our subject – I think the Million program is brilliant. What better way to motivate students than to offer something they are inspired by. I am wondering where else you have taught, and if students interest in learning looks at all different in Nunavut. angela

  12. Thanks Ainsley for reminding me of the privilege we have working in a city where technology is far more acceptable for our students. The next time our internet stops working, I will see the frustration through a different lens.

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