Technology Does Not Equal Engagement

I imagine that most people who would read a blog like this are educators who agree that one of the benefits of technology in education is that it increases student engagement. I wouldn’t be a technology integrator if I didn’t believe this to be true. When I was in grad school, my Emerging Tech professor challenged us with the question, “Does technology increase learning?” At first, we were confused. I mean seriouslythis was a graduate program for Instructional Technology! Although a few argued “no,” most of us were in the “yes” camp. We read scholarly articles on both sides of the issue. His question made all of us us dig deep for research that would back up our (existing) opinions. After much reading, analysis, and debate, our professor pointed out that the body of research was quite clear. With nothing else taken into consideration, simply adding technology does not result in increased learning.


Photo by FutilityBucket


Photo by Herman Miller







The only real difference in the two pictures above is that the resources in the picture on the right are a lot more expensive. Introducing technology may be “state of the art,” but if it doesn’t increase learning, where is its value? In short, “Technology doesn’t revolutionize education. Teachers do.” —Derek Muller (@veritasium). In its recently published Teachers Know Best study, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has found that “Despite the proliferation of technology that enables student learning experiences to be tailored to meet individual skills, needs, and interests, most teachers [69%] still report working in classrooms where students generally learn the same content, working at the same pace together as a class” (Nov. 2015).

Technology will only enhance the pedagogy that is already present (paraphrased from Eric Patnoudes @NoApp4Pedagogy). If a teacher struggles with classroom management, and you add technology to the mix–the result is chaos. An instructor who lectures day after day will likely find his or her students off task during class if laptops or mobile devices are introduced. On the other hand, when technology is added to the repertoire of a good teacher who (already) connects with students and utilizes a variety of methods to challenge and engage them, the potential for engagement and learning is limitless.

Which is best: 1:1 Laptops, iPads, Chromebooks, B.Y.O.D.? The focus needs to be removed from which devices we should use and placed instead on how to guide our learners to tap the power of technology to accomplish things that were never possible without them. (Think “R” of SAMR.) It has always been–and will always be–about pedagogy. Technology will only enhance the pedagogy that is already present. It is for this reason that I chose the subheading for my blog very carefully. “It’s not about the tech. It’s about the teach.” –Ewan Mcintosh


IMG_0118This post is the product of a week-long reflection on a two day professional development event, Miami Device, that I attended last week. This was the second year of the event. Last year, I attended mostly practical sessions that highlighted specific apps and techniques I could apply immediately in my classroom. This year, I ended up selecting sessions that were more theoretical in nature. At my school, we are in the midst of developing a school wide technology plan, so the timing was perfect.

Kelley Briceno, Tech Coach

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