Our students our connected…so why disconnect them!


Please beware, I will mention the iPad in a positive way during this article. Cynics and the ill-informed may look away now.

I find it very frustrating reading about all the great work that is going in to trialling, testing and implementing education technology only to then read the reactions of those who post ‘comments’ afterwards. Very rarely does anyone write an endorsement or support for those that propose edtech can make a difference, and yet there are so many out there ready to pick apart the slightest ‘flaw’ in an article.

Cynics seem to fall into several categories, but the most vociferous are the outright sceptics who believe technology does not belong in the same postcode as a school and those that think tablets and especially iPads are a gimmick.

There is no doubt in my mind that much good work is undone by misinformation and those few who blindly throw money at technology hoping it will solve their problems. I often get pulled up on the fact that I have no ‘evidence’ in my posts. But evidence means different things to different people and in teaching, evidence is a pretty flexible thing. We see evidence in the form of work students produce and exam results, but these are not infallible. I have written reports which say things like, ‘despite a poor exam result I’m sure that X will improve’ or ‘I don’t think I have yet seen the best of X’. But where’s my evidence? It might be a moment in class where they contributed something brilliant, or a conversation about a non-curriculum topic that got them fired up and enthusiastic, Or it might be, as so often is the case, a ‘feeling’.

Don’t worry, I’m not proposing that we invest thousands of pounds on a 1:1 mobile device rollout because of a feeling, but I am saying that there are lots of ways of measuring and evaluating ‘success’. I have never claimed that an iPad can get you better results in an exam. But, what I have categorically seen it do, is make the sharing of information between students and teachers easier and I have definitely seen them get students to engage more deeply on a topic. And, I have seen students access new knowledge more quickly and efficiently than they could in any other way. These things do not mean exam success is guaranteed, or that exam success will be better than if they had been taught differently. But, what it could mean is that students are more independent than they were and that they will have a more positive relationship with learning.

Where can I get evidence for this? Well I could survey my students (and I have), the ones experiencing this, but I have read comments in the past implying that they are an invalid source of information. This disappoints me – if our students can’t be trusted to evaluate their own feelings about learning then who can?

I understand that league tables are a convenient way of compiling and ranking schools in a way that everyone understands and I understand that exam results and truancy rates are tangible, hard ‘evidence’ of what is going on at a school, but I don’t think these things really tell you enough.

 Does it not count for something that a student might go away and read more deeply around a subject because you showed them an online resource that had university-level essays and criticism that they would not have found in their local library? Does it not count for something that a student played a game with an obvious educational value IN HIS OWN FREE TIME? Does it not count for something that because a teacher has implemented the flipped classroom that he can spend more time talking to his students in lessons and as a result has found out that one of these students has an untapped love of X, Y or Z?

These revelations and developments are facilitated through the use of technology but they might not improve a school’s standing in an Excel spreadsheet.


I don’t need to measure results in this way to know whether what I do is working. We all know when a lesson has gone well. We know if we were ‘outstanding’ and we know if the learning was ‘outstanding.’ We know because this is what we do. We teach and we facilitate learning. If there is a chance that we can do this more effectively with technology, then isn’t that worth trying?

It isn’t pandering to engage with our students on a level they are familiar or comfortable with. Don’t you wish that your teachers had been more human? Don’t you wish that your teachers had tried to take the time to use what you know, or what was relevant to the world in which you live or were going to be released into one day, to grab your attention?

One of the most provocative Tweets I have ever read came across my feed today – it said simply ‘would you want to be a student in your own class?’

If you’re good at evaluating your own performance then I think this is just about the best question you could ever ask yourself. If you’re not, if you’re closed off to change or self-relfection, then it will mean nothing.

This is the challenge for us all. Deciding whether or not we are able to answer that question honestly, and whether to not we want to do something about it when the answer is ‘no.’ And let us be honest – there are always times when that is the answer. It’s how we respond to this that matters.

I am not arguing that technology is a cure to all the problems we face in the classroom (though that is often the accusation of the cynics), but it is a possibility. It is something that could help your students. It is something that is unlikely to hinder them if the environment in which they are being used is appropriately structured (more of this another time).

 As educators we have a duty of care to our students. Part of this must surely be to engage them with the learning that we are allowing them access to. How many students do you know/teach that don’t have a phone/laptop/internet access? How many do you know who don’t use social networking? How many do you think get their phones out during the school day whether we ‘allow’ it or not?

Our students are connected. To disconnect them by removing technology that is embedded in every other aspect of their life seems to me to be counter-intuitive and perhaps even damaging. Perhaps they don’t use the technology they have in a way that you would like them to, but this is where we could step in and make a real and genuine difference…




19 thoughts on “Our students our connected…so why disconnect them!

  1. I think what you have to say has a lot of merit. The problem with not being able to learn from your students is you will never know if what you are doing is working or not. I am currently studying to be a teacher and this is something that I worry about for when I have my own classroom. I have a four year old who is homeschooled and is currently working on a first grade level on most subjects. One of the things my wife and I decided on was that we were going to get her an iPad. Granted, at first, we got it for her because we were missionaries and travelled all over the country and the world. Soon though we started learning the endless possibilities of educational apps, videos, and games that would allow her to be able to pass time and also get educational material into her mind at the same time. I can directly attribute her reading ability to two things; first, the raceway reading and teaching materials, secondly, her iPad. There are so many educational apps that will track the student’s progress as they go through the games and lessons. I would love to venture a guess that, those who oppose the use of technology and especially in this case the iPad, they do not know much about the features for teachers as far as restrictions that can be placed on them and they also have not had a lot of experience with the apps themselves. I don’t know what age you are teaching but there is a wealth of knowledge out there for all different age groups and the use of technology with each.

  2. I love that you said that about the evidence you see as a teacher. Sometimes providing evidence that others would accept as proof that a student is improving is indeed very difficult; not all the results of teaching are tangible. I think that is one problem with many assessment methods and possibly with Common Core is that it is an attempt to make results that would show the knowledge of the students in a way that those outside of the classroom can see how their students are doing but these results aren’t accurate because the students are all expected to fit in the same mold. I disagree entirely with those who would say that students are an invalid source of information when it comes to their own learning. In most cases, the students are going to give honest feedback because they want to learn and if they feel that their feedback will help the teacher to use methods that are helpful to them then they are going to share what works best for them. I agree with you and I do think that is important to incorporate technology into the classroom. In this day and age, we are surrounded by technology and that isn’t going to change. Students will need to use technology in college, in their jobs, and to manage their lives but if we don’t teach them how to apply technology to those aspects of life then they will be lost. I have personally struggled with understanding certain aspects of technology that I have had to use in college classes and the main reason it was difficult for me was because I was not exposed to a lot of technology growing up and my high school classes didn’t prepare me to use technology in my learning.

  3. I love your concluding point that is, our students are connected. Today’s society is so focused on technology. Many aspects of our youth is focused around technology. So why not use that to our advantage and use technology to educate them? You also proposed an excellent question that I think every teacher should ask themselves. That is, ‘would you want to be a student in your own class?’ If teachers are to answer this question honestly, I think it would push them to become better educators. Thank you for this post! Very insightful!

  4. “Would you want to be a student in your own class?” This question hit me hard. I have always been worried about my future students and how they are going to take to me being their teacher. I believe it is important to make sure your students are connected with you on such a level that you are fully aware when they are “getting it.” I also love how you said we have all different types of evidence when it comes to how well our students are excelling in the classroom. A test/exam score does not always determine that they know what they are doing. It is the engagement in the classroom, the comments they make to their peers, and all different types of situations that can prove that they are on the right track and are continuing to dig deeper into the information we are teaching and preparing for them in the classroom. Technology is becoming more popular each year. It is a big implementation within classrooms now, making it important for us to learn how to use it and use it well. With the use of technology, students are able to engage in a different type of way that makes the learning more entertaining for them. Using the technology does not always make them receive better test scores, but they are enjoying the learning process that comes with the use of the technology more than they would otherwise.

  5. Technology today has so many benefits for students in the classroom. Technology provides students with opportunities to expand their knowledge as well as learn new things. Even though academic progress cannot always be measured through the use of technology, it is very evident when students are gaining from its use. Like you pointed out, students who willingly want to play educational games and research more about the lesson are obviously learning something. Personally, whenever I have been able to use technology to learn, I have gotten more out of it. Also, technology allows visual learners a better opportunity to increase their knowledge.

  6. “… if our students can’t be trusted to evaluate their own feelings about learning then who can?” This is so powerful. A student might do really well on exams or tests but what if they aren’t enjoying the lessons? are they really learning? Are they really interested? Students’ should enjoy learning! If they do, they might be motivated to further their education outside of the classroom! And if we want our students to care about their education, we have to get their input. Their opinions should count for something, we are trying to shape our lessons around them right? I understand that this wasn’t necessarily the point of your article, but I really appreciated that statement! Thank you for voicing your opinion!
    I also really appreciate the last paragraph, “Our students are connected.” We should always be looking for ways to turn something seemingly negative, like cellphones in the classroom, into something positive!

  7. The question, “Would you want to be a student in your own classroom” really struck me and made me think. I am a worrier. I worry about everything, even about things that are unnecessary. This means I worry about my future students. I worry about whether or not I am going to be an effective teacher. I worry whether the students are going to enjoy how I teach and be engaged in what is going on. I worry that my students might be bored in my classroom and think I am just like every other teacher they have ever had and are completely shut off to any of it then. This question really causes myself as a future teacher to evaluate myself. Would I want to be a student in my own classroom? I am someone who is constantly using technology whether that be my phone or my computer. Schools today ban student’s technology from the classrooms but why? Possibly because it is something that is competing for the students attention. The only thing is…it usually wins. Technology is becoming more and more popular and used by everyone worldwide. If I use technology this much, then I know my future students will be much more into due to the way our universe is progressing. If technology is competing for our student’s attention and winning, why would we not try to incorporate it since it’s something the students are familiar with and love to be on? Why do teachers not reach out to the students and what is happening in their age of living and what is popular to them? Think about how much more engaged they would be. If technology (iPads, etc…) could help the students learn easier and be more creative and into what is being taught, why would teachers not what to implement it? Think of the possibilities.

  8. I really loved what you had to say in this article, particularly what you said about the evidence and marks of a good teacher. The question, “Would you want to be a student in your own class?” struck me. When I think about my favorite teachers, what sticks out the most to me was the qualities they all had in common- they all genuinely cared about all of us and wanted each of us to succeed. I think a lot of the time we can get caught up in the standards and the do-we-or-don’t-we question of technology in the classroom that we forget the biggest point of why we teach in the first place- we want our students to succeed because we care about them. How we get to that point and all of the details matter, yes, but they aren’t everything. If using technology and iPads and flipping our classrooms help our students to succeed, then we should implement them. I don’t want to let myself get so caught up in the how of what I’m doing in my classroom that I forget my main goal is to help my students succeed in any way that I can. This article really reminded me of that, so thank you!

  9. I really enjoyed what you had to say. The problem with not being able to learn from your students is you will never know if what you are doing is working or not. There are so many educational apps that are available nowadays that will track the student’s progress as they go through the games and lessons which can be very helpful for educators. There are many critics against the iPad because they do not know what the iPad is capable of and the restrictions that you can place onto them. They can also be helpful for every age group which is a huge plus. Thank you for sharing your insight!

  10. I think that with education today, teachers have an important role to play in exposing how technology can be beneficial, educational, and challenge them intellectually. I know students in high school who read and think more deeply about controversial topics due to the fact that teachers showed them online resources, articles, and podcasts. This, in effect, opens up a new door for learning. As our culture is becoming more tech-savvy, teachers must funnel this in a positive and educational way in the classroom so students can see the positive, educational benefits of this instead of technology merely being used for social media and personal enjoyment. Since students are already connected, we must make it our job as teachers to connect and engage with them on their level and above, influencing their use of technology in a positive way which will help them learn more and think more critically.

  11. I agree with this article and believe that as teachers, our job is to funnel technology in an educational and positive way. I agree with the statement that students may read and think more critically due to teachers exposing their students to articles and podcasts online. In my English classes in high school, this was especially apparent for students who wanted to challenge themselves intellectually. I think that as students engage in technology, teachers must connect with technology and stay up to date with the most recent tech-savvy equipment. We must expose students to technology which is beneficial for their learning, not just merely for entertainment purposes. Teachers must learn how to utilize technology in their classrooms so they can better prepare their students for the future and to thrive in life.

    1. I agree with the article in where it mentions that as teachers we must effectively teach in a way that is easiest for our students to understand. In a day and age where technology surrounds us, it would be ridiculous to eliminate that from our educational approach. Our students are motivated and stimulated by so many different things today that they need to be stimulated in the classroom to be able to learn. We cannot simply sit and lecture for an eight hours and day because do us as teachers even enjoy that? We need to entice our students to learn and if that means incorporating technology then we must do it. I really agree with the article especially the point that says, “would you want to be a student in your own classroom.” My school did not have a lot of access to technology and my teachers would simply lecture all day long; therefore, I see the importance of incorporating technology.

  12. I agree with the article. I think that technology is not going to solve our problems with education. I think education is a never ending learning process that we hare constantly trying to adapt to. Yes technology has helped in many ways but it is not the key to everything. I think that it would be an awful thing to see technology taken out of the classroom simply because it gives a lot more access to the world and learning than almost anything else. Technology is a tool and i think we need to use it to the best of our abilities.

  13. The fact that you didn’t just say that technology is the only way to teach students, but that it is a supplement to learning. I completely agree with the idea that, using technology is a way to create better communication and that it can help learning in ways but it is not a complete replacement for the original way of learning. Since technology is such a huge part of our world today, we as teachers should definitely utilize it in our classes. We did this just the other day in one of my classes. We had been reading a story in class, when we finished our teacher wanted us to create a comic/timeline of the important events.. Instead of doing this using paper and pencil, which would have taken longer, we used an app on IPads to help us create them. After we made them we were able to send them to our teacher. This would have taken longer to do if we had to write and draw everything by hand. As teachers we have a role to teach students, in doing this we should use the best means possible to do this. We should not hinder their learning because we don’t want to become dependent on technology in the classroom.

  14. I agree with nearly all of the main points of this article. I really liked the tweet that was mentioned- “would you want to be a student in your own classroom?” I believe this question is a great measuring stick to be used by the teacher. We must make our classrooms engaging and effective, places where we would want to learn. Technology certainly has a place in today’s classroom. However, it must be used effectively. Many teachers are not properly educated on how to use technological devices, and they struggle to use them properly in the classroom. The well-balanced lesson uses technology appropriately and in a way that can be applied. It complements the lesson, and it does not take away from it. To avoid using technology in today’s classroom would be foolish, and teachers must get aboard this fast-moving train.

  15. I agree with your perspective of technology in education. These days, technology is not something that we can avoid, it is all around us and your students will have access to it in one way or another. I think it is a wise idea to embrace technology because it would be unreasonable not to. Technology is actually a very helpful tool that makes both the educators and the students jobs easier. Students are exposed to different kinds of technology daily. Most kids view technology as a form of entertainment or fun, especially with younger kids. If an educator can show the student educational and fun ways technology could be used the student could learn and be entertained on their own time at home not just in the classroom. However, without the teachers guidance the child may have never learned of the education side of technology.

  16. I agree that teachers should learn how to utilize technology in their classrooms because technology gives us advanced to education that we have not always had access to. I do think that we as educators should limit the use of technology to what is beneficial because there are many things that can also be very distracting as well.

  17. I agree with the article. I believe technology in the classroom is not meant to be seen as a revolution in education, but in fact as a powerful tool to be used. Technology such as iPads and smart boards are not meant to change the way we learn, but to replace outdated tools.

  18. I appreciated this article and the perspective in favor of the students. I think it is important to realize that technology has many benefits in the classroom that do not push students outside of traditional education. If taught well, technology only points back to exposing students to the reality of the information they are learning. If a student can see that what they’re learning has a place in the world, through technology, they will be more engaged. When students can watch a video and read a current article about a topic instead of searching through an encyclopedia, they may become more interested in the topic. When a student can practice a type of math problem repeatedly on a math website, they will enjoy their practice more. If students can use the technology they love to interact with the topics they need to know in school, teachers should take advantage of the opportunity.

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