In reply to what Gavin Dudeney posted and the feedback he got, I’ll register here what I’ve written as a reminder of my own thoughts on the topic:
Gavin, you mentioned in one of your replies “You’d like to think – wouldn’t you – that teachers ask themselves these questions on a daily basis – not just about technology, but also about anything else they bring to the classroom, or do in the classroom?” I think that’s exactly the point we should make. It is not about ed tech, but simply about the kind of our pedagogical approaches to what we do nowadays. Good teaching hasn’t changed at all, the tools we have at our disposal now just make it easier to let students’ output be more personal, reflective, engaging. And this will certainly depend directly on how the lesson was conducted. It is not about ed tech, the debate is really about teaching/learning. For me unplugged doesn’t mean being disconnected from the tech we have to promote critical thinking, engagement, willingness to go beyond the few classroom hours we have. I’m a teacher in Brazil, a developing country. However, my students are totally wired, though they don’t know how to use what they have at the tip of their fingers for learning. Our main challenge as educators, then, is to help them find their way to optimize the learning opportunities they have.
Just yesterday, a friend of mine was reporting how interactive, reflective class she had with the lesson plan I posted on my blog about “beauty“. The tech there was just a springboard for students’ own production. I’ve been trying out the different uses of technology not for the bells and whistles it provides, but for the meaningfulness it can bring with it depending on what and how we do with our students. I’ve been intensely grateful for what technology is doing to my students and they’ve reported how they’ve been learning for the past months because of it. The results? Productions like this: http://primelearner.pbworks.com/w/page/37678475/Ivan And I have to point out that these adult students are not graded for the written production. But the interactions, the input I’ve been able to provide have been explored in such a way that the students feel the urge to express themselves, to share, to keep learning…
In my view, there shouldn’t be such a debate on ed tech or not, but how teachers could make the best use of what’s out there. Pencil, notebooks, the black board were once technology, and we simply take them for granted now and we don’t question if we should use them or not. I agree with Sue Lyon-Jones that one of the main issues is how teacher training is being done by institutions and if, at least, some of the teachers are looking for their own professional development beyond the institutionalized versions of it, for it makes a difference in the final result in terms of tech use (going beyond the obvious, using it for critical thinking, student production, etc, or not).
Another thing that has got me thinking after IATEFL and while I get prepared to attend other conferences is that fact that there’s a tendency for us to stick to the same old views of presenters as there’s a whole deal with publishers. I see the same old list of presenters in all the mainstream TEFL conferences. Hardly ever do we see new names with fresh perspective. I wonder if this model shouldn’t be rethought. Well, for me it is not a big problem, in fact, for because of technology I can make my own informed decisions on who I want to listen to in online conferences, debates, network, right?
Great debate, Gavin. Thanks!