Jessica Ferronetti: Technology and Your Students

Jessica Ferrnetti

This thought-provoking essay, the third in a series of four from of our D’Amour Student Fellows, comes from Jessica Ferronetti.  Please feel free to share with colleagues and through social media.

This past fall, I was standing up in front of a class of freshmen and sophomores, teaching them a lesson on stem changing verbs in the present tense in Spanish. I glanced at the clock and decided it was time for their closure activity. I asked the students to please take out a piece of paper for the closure activity as I was going to collect it to gather evidence of assessment. The students didn’t move. I asked them again to take out a piece of paper, and one timid hand rose up. “Señorita, we don’t have any paper. We don’t carry notebooks”.

This is becoming a more and more common scenario in K12 education. Schools are moving towards incorporating technology in every class, often utilizing a one-to-one format where every student gets a Chromebook or an iPad. These students are being taught to take notes, do worksheets, and take tests on their devices and they are going to expect to be able to use technology in their college classes as well.

However, college professors have a very split view regarding electronics in the classroom. Some professors embrace technology completely, allowing students to take notes and do work on their laptops or iPads during class. They put up PowerPoints in advance so that students can take notes on them and don’t mind if students do the readings on their laptops or iPads provided that they still mark up the readings. Professors at the other end of the spectrum ban technology from the classroom, not allowing any student to take notes on their laptops. But with this coming generation of students, teachers in higher education might find that students are asking for that to change.

As with any new method of instruction, there will be benefits and detriments; however, whether we like it or not, technology is and will continue to be an integral part of student life, especially as they move into higher education.

Benefits

There have been many times when I’ve talked with professors or other teachers and they tell me that technology like phones, iPads, and laptops have no place in a high school or college classroom — they merely serve as a distraction from the material that the students are supposed to be learning. However, Karla Steele, a teacher at a school that isn’t 1:1 with iPads, often incorporates technology into her classroom in order to engage her students since we live in a technologically advanced world. I have had the opportunity to observe and teach in her classroom and she, along with some other teacher and professors, have introduced me to many different apps that are useful for engaging students in the high school class that could also be utilized in higher education. Many apps and websites out there not only engage students, but also add to and enhance student learning.

Kahoot!

I was introduced to Kahoot! just a few weeks ago when I first started observing Karla Steele. I have now had many opportunities to use Kahoot! in my 10th grade Spanish 3 Honors class that I am student teaching in. This website is an interactive, competitive, Jeopardy-like quiz game. The questions are projected on the board and students use their phones to click the right answer in a set amount of time. My students absolutely love this because they are a very competitive group of kids and they can see how they place against each other. They love being able to use their phones in class; the students see it as a special treat and do not abuse it, as they want to be able to continue to use Kahoot! This site is also a great study tool for students; it really makes them think about the vocabulary or grammar they are learning.

Poll Everywhere

I have had a lot of professors use Poll Everywhere in their classrooms, which allows students to respond to short answer questions or answer multiple choice questions via their laptop or phone when given a log-in code. This also engages students because they have to think, but they also get to see their answers displayed on the board. I have yet to use this strategy in a high school level classroom but it goes well with college level students. It gets a discussion going when there might not be one or brings up questions that students might not otherwise ask.

Quizlet/Quia

Students can use these great resources in order to study vocabulary and terms. Quizlet is more flashcard based whereas Quia disguises vocabulary into games. The students that I have now depend on Quizlet for review instead of actual physical flashcards, especially because they can then play games with words and definitions. If you are teaching a subject in which students have to learn vocabulary, Quizlet is definitely a resource to use. Quia makes the vocabulary fun, but can also be used for conceptual aspects of class.

Bloom’s Taxonomy and Technology

As educational professionals, we have all been exposed to Bloom’s Taxonomy on a variety of occasions. We know to form questions based on different levels, causing people to recall information or to think critically, and that we as teachers should target all levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Recently, the following website was shared with me, linked here. This site organizes different apps into the different levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy, which can then be used in the classroom. This is a great resource for teachers and professors who are looking to engage students in their lectures and classes via technology.

Challenges

Of course, there are always detriments to technology. For example, students have learned to quickly switch between apps when a teacher or professor walks by so that it looks like they are always doing work. But by being vigilant, this can be reduced. I spoke with Sarah Leshay, a high school biology teacher in a class that is 1:1 with iPads, about some of the detriments of technology in a classroom. She said that she is grateful to have the opportunity to use technology in her class because it makes answering questions easier; she just asks one of her students to look up something if she doesn’t know the answer.

But, on the other hand, her students are very easily distracted by the technology that they have. Even though the wifi might be encrypted so that students cannot access certain sites, they know how to get around this. As she said, the temptation to go on Buzzfeed, Snapchat, or Twitter is just too strong for students to resist. However, trade-offs will always exist in teaching, and ultimately I perceive the benefits of technology to outweigh the potential detriments.

Whatever your stance is on technology, whether you believe we should incorporate more technology into our college level classes or whether you believe we should ban it, just know that students are increasingly becoming dependent on their iPads and laptops in a world where technology is so easily accessible. These students will start appearing on college campuses across the country soon, expecting to be able to use all of this technology in class.

Teachers and professors must be ready to work with them.