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Technology in the Classroom
''There is nothing good or bad about technology,” says Dr. Richard F.
Schmid, Professor and Chair in the Department of Education at Concordia
University. “It is how technology is used. It
really depends on the pedagogy associated with it.''
Educational reform in Quebec has addressed the use of technology with the intent to incorporate technology in the classroom when appropriate. Dr. Schmid says there is not enough professional development offered to teachers to encourage this. He says it’s most likely a one-day workshop that fails to address the broader issues associated with technology and the classroom.
The lack of curriculum materials is another challenge. Teachers are not typically programmers and they need technical support regularly. ''Because of these curriculum materials, it is a whole new level to their jobs, to be developers of technology-based materials.'' says Dr. Schmid. “This creates resistance on the part of teachers because it adds another layer of complexity to their job,” he continues.
''The use of technology in class is not always critical because there is a gap in what is taught inside and outside of the classroom,'' says Dr. Sandra Chang-Kredl, Ph.D., Associate Professor at Concordia University. ''In the classroom, it is not a real world application for them,'' she says. Dr.Chang-Kredl says, more than anything, teachers should initiate conversations about technology in class in order to foster constructive criticism.
A huge issue in Quebec is inequities in schools regarding technology. There are considerable discrepancies between school budgets, and not all schools are equipped the same. Dr. Schmid says there are stark differences between schools, school boards, and areas of the city. He also says more often than not, budgets are very tight. The biggest difference occurs between the public school system and private schools. In private schools, there are one-to-one laptop programs. ''Access to technology in those kind of schools is phenomenal,'' says Dr. Schmid.
Since most youngsters now have mobile devices, some schools are beginning to introduce a “bring your own device” policy, especially for children in upper elementary and high schools. ''We don't fight the technology, but utilize what they have in their hands because they are extremely adept at using these technologies,'' says Dr. Schmid, before adding that devices need to be used academically.
Dr. Schmid says researching on the Internet affords children the opportunity for more resources, yet many schools have limited access to Wi-Fi. He also points out that firewalls block the children from accessing some material needed for their research.
Besides being helpful to further children's knowledge, technology can also help those who live with learning difficulties. Web-based tools to work on literacy and math skills, among others, are being developed in universities, like the Learning ToolKit +, designed by the Centre for the Study of Literacy and Performance at Concordia University. Such tools are can be very effective for children with learning problems. Dr. Schmid says these empower children and help them to level up.
Apps like Abracadabra have proven successful at developing learning skills in students from pre-kindergarten to third-grade. This particular application works on letter recognition, pronunciation and workflow. It pinpoints the areas in which the children may have difficulty and helps them to develop competencies. ''One of the key components to this is that it is individualized,'' says Dr. Schmid. The students' performances are tracked, so it helps identify how the child is progressing and can be of use to both parents and teachers.
As for a future of technology in the classroom, Dr. Schmid thinks it is going to be a natural evolution, and because new teachers are more knowledgeable and receptive about the use of these tools, we may see more technology incorporated in Quebec classrooms in the near future.
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