Use of Technology in Teaching: Issues and Problems

— Khagendra Acharya

There has been a very significant proliferation of literature regarding the use of technology in teaching (Dede, Allen, Muthukumar). Mostly, these writings unequivocally accept technology as the most essential part in teaching, if not a panacea for every problem that exists in teaching. In a sense, a tendency to emphasize on inevitable role of technology in pedagogy to the extent of obliterating human part of teacher by technology part has been very dominant. Even in the balanced arguments, only words of caution for appropriate use of technology seems to be meagerly appearing, “Inappropriately used in the classroom, technology can be used to perpetuate old models of teaching and learning. … Teachers can use multimedia technology to give more colorful, stimulating lectures” (New Horizons). It means there has hardly been any appropriate interest regarding issues and challenges that pertain in technology use in teaching. This paper, based on general model of Public Relations (PR) process developed by Center and Jackson argues that we need to take many issues in consideration so that the use of technology does not become problem.

General model of PR follows a series of logical steps to constitute a continuous four-step process: the first being fact-finding and data-gathering and the other in order are planning and programming, implementing appropriate strategy and evaluating (Center and Jackson 14). Fact-finding and data-gathering, when applied in class-room context, concerns the assessment of not only the instructor but also the students in terms of familiarity with the technology. The question that becomes pertinent in this regard is – are we techno-geeks or technophobes, digital native or digital migrant? The second question that is of equal importance concerns more pragmatic issue i.e. the students’ expectation and needs in the classroom regarding the nature of treatment to the subject. Based on my experience in Kathmandu University (which I am sure applies to many), I have found students having three types of expectations – those who desire entertaining treatment to the subject, those who anticipate only teaching and those who wish for the combination of the two i.e. edutainment. Investigation into these two questions provides an overview of the existing environment of the class.

The second stage – planning and programming – is based on the finding in the first stage. The type of class environment we own largely determines the goal which then dictates the objectives. Goal generally determines the contour whereas objective states the destination. At this stage, primarily we need to get answer to the questions like, i) should we use technology? ii)  If so, what is the nature and magnitude of the use? These questions necessarily lead to the third stage.

The third stage – implementing appropriate strategy – follows by design from the second stage. Because the third stage is the function of the second stage and tangible aspect, it should specify the type of game plan and the technology to be used in the class. The process can be illustrated using permutation and combination of the elements discussed in the first stage of PR. For instance, if the teacher is techno-geek and the students are digital natives which are generally characteristics of classes in developed world, any highly sophisticated technology can be unquestionably used. However, any of the remaining combinations demand for selection of appropriate technology. For example if the class comprises digital migrant teachers and students which is the nature of developing society, the use of technology demands for its limitations. In the latter case compared to the first one, the demand for discipline is higher and thus the need for teachers’ authority exercise is more. Consequently, the use of technology in these conditions demand for its controlled and very often minimal use. Nevertheless, the point to note is the necessary revision that this equation might undergo due to the students’ expectation and needs in the classroom regarding the nature of treatment to the subject.

The fourth stage – evaluation – concerns the magnitude of effectiveness of technology use.  We need to assess efficiency and impact of technology use. Unless these two aspects are studied, we cannot determine results and decide what, if anything, to do next or do differently.

The four-step process, which finally directs either to intensify or continue or deter or delay the use of technology, brings home an undeniable fact: use of technology is not a panacea; it is spatio-temporal process that is dialectically determined by various components of the class.

Works Cited

Allen, Ethan. Nanoscale Science and Technology. New Horizons for Learning. 29 April 2010                                                    < http://www.newhorizons.org/strategies/technology/allen.htm>.

Center, Allen H. and Patrick Jackson. Public Relations Practices: Managerial Case Studies and Problems. 6th Ed. India: Prentice-Hall, 2002.

Dede, Chris. Testimony to the US Congress, House of Representatives: Joint Hearing on Educational Technology in the 21st Century. New Horizons for Learning. 29 April 2010 <http://www.newhorizons.org/strategies/technology/dede1.htm>.

Kumar, Muthu. Learning with the Internet. New Horizons for Learning. 29 April 2010 <http://www.newhorizons.org/strategies/technology/muthukumar.htm>.

New Horizons. Technology in Education. 29 April 2010 <http://www.newhorizons.org/strategies/technology/front_tech.htm>.

[The argument in this article is based on my contribution as a panelist in an International Conference organized by H. M. Patel Institute, Gujarat,  in January 2010. I acknowledge Mr. Hem Raj Kafle and Mr. Tirtha Ghimire for their insights.]

7 comments

  • Dinesh

    It appears to me that Mr. Acharya has brought a comprehensive model to account for appropriate use of technology in teaching. I agree that the use of technology is contextual and thus demands the whole four-step process if we expect desired effect of technology use.

  • Thanks so much for a great article. As someone interested in academic technology, I find this critical framework very useful, because it encourages teachers to integrate technology into a reflective model of pedagogy. Here’s a specific application that I made of such a critical frame for using collaborative writing technology in the classroom at the national convention of English teachers last month: http://prezi.com/1lnzdfkultff/ If readers want more materials on critical theories/pedagogies of technology, here are some:

    • Feenberg, Andrew. Critical Theory of Technology. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 1991.
    • Feigenbaum, Harvey. “Is Technology the Enemy of Culture?” International Journal of Cultural Policy 10.3 (Nov. 2004): 251-263.
    • Fernandez, Luke. “Combating Educational Somnambulism in the Information Age.” Peer Review 8.4 (Fall 2006): 8-11.
    • Hass, Christine and Christine M. Neuwirth, “Writing the Technology That Writes Us: Research on Literacy and the Shape of Technology.” Literacy and Technology: The Complications of Teaching and Learning with Technology. Ed., Cynthia L. Selfe and Susan Hilligoss. New York: MLA, 1994. 319-335.
  • madhu

    Technology is just a means to an end rather than an end in itself. Only the proper means leads to an end. The article provides the teachers with the model to use technology by critically evaluating the situation. I appreciate the thoughtful writing.

  • swati Bhatt

    A very good and encouraging article for the beginners like me who are good at technology but need to have good pedagogical concepts of how to use it in the classroom. I appreciate and congratulate you sir!

  • Awatar Dhakal

    Thanx for the great article. Hope it will be useful for all the teachers. For those who are using technology in classroom and also for those who are willing to introduce technology in the classroom. I am of the second type.

  • Dear Khagendra
    Thank you so much for your article. To give your ideas a more practical vigour, I am sharing some of the references on how e-mailing can be used for teaching reading and writing skills.

    I went through Liao’s (1999) article ‘E-mailing to Improve EFL Learners’ Reading and Writing Abilities: Taiwan Experience’ (http://iteslj.org/Articles/Liao-Emailing.html) which highlights the importance of e-mailing in developing reading and writing skills of students. The ideas discussed in the article can be used for all levels of students especially for those who can write e-mails. To be specific, I use this idea with the Bachelor level students who are doing their course on Reading, Writing and Critical Thinking. Since my students have easy access to e-mails than other technological tools, they can use e-mail to share their ideas.

    Based on the experiences of working with Taiwanese students, Liao argues that the students who join Computer Pals Across the World (CPAW) do not only develop their communicative competence but also intercultural competence through e-mails. This means students do not only share their ideas and experiences but also share their culture with the people from other cultural backgrounds. This indicates that the use of e-mail enhances students’ ability to communicate effectively with people from other cultures.

    Moreover, students have to use appropriate mechanics (e.g. punctuation), correct grammar, cohesive devices and style while e-mailing people from other cultures. This will of course develop their writing skill. At the same time, in order to answer the queries and know more about other cultures, they have to read the e-mails sent by the friends. In this sense, e-mailing is the useful tool to integrate both reading and writing skills.

    Similarly, as students have to communicate with people from other countries they will be motivated to read their e-mails and write about their own culture. On the one hand, this will maintain intercultural communication and on the other hand, this will make students aware of their own culture which is called ‘reflexive impact’.

    However, the article does not mention much about the process of providing feedback to the students’ writing. There is no detail account of how e-mailing develops intercultural competence as there is no any description of testing the intercultural competence in the article. Moreover, the focus on fluency rather than accuracy may create the fossilisation of learning grammar.

    Another useful article is by Belisle (1996) E-mail Activities in the ESL Writing Class (http://iteslj.org/Articles/Belisle-Email.html). I found the idea of the article useful for my students. Belisle argues that by using e-mail, teachers can provide task in a group and monitor their activities closely. One of the most important points in using e-mail is it makes writing more focused and audience-oriented. Students have to write something keeping in mind that other friends read what they write.

    I found ‘Operfect paragraph’ and ‘Chain stories or sentences’ more useful for my students. The former involves students in the writing process. They do not only write a paragraph but also edit and fine tune it. This process also enables students to edit their own language. Moreover, such an activity enhances language awareness of students. Similarly, the second activity engages them in developing a complete story by contributing one line of the story. On the one hand, this activity involves the students in a meaningful interaction and on the other hand, it develops the ability to use language cohesively and coherently which is one of the important aspects of writing.

    Overall, both articles provide insightful ideas and activities for using e-mail to develop reading and writing skills of the students. However, both articles lack discussion on how to establish a good rapport and interaction among the students in a group. They do not discuss much about the role of teacher for making the writing and reading more effective.

    Please share your thoughts after reading the articles I have listed below.

    Cheers!!!
    Prem Phyak

    References
    Belisle, R. (1996). E-mail activities in the ESL writing class. The Internet TESL Journal, 2(12). Available at http://iteslj.org/Articles/Belisle-Email.html.
    Liao, C. (1999). E-mailing to improve EFL learners’ reading and writing abilities: Taiwan experience. The Internet TESL Journal, Vol. V, No. 3. Avaibale at http://iteslj.org/Articles/Liao-Emailing.html

  • Khagendra

    Dear friends,

    I am really delighted to read response from scholarly friends. I think it is symptomatic of significant interest in technology use in pedagogy, and more particularly wide reach of neltachoutari blog.

    Here, I share an interesting example of fiasco due to inappropriate use of technology.

    I had assigned Human Biology undergrad students to comment on the lead posted by one of their friends in blog. The students, as I had anticipated, uploaded their comments, but not in blog: more than 70% students response was in my e-mail inbox. Very interestingly, they all had requested me not to upload their answer in the blog – they all wanted to keep their response confidential.

    The case of three students whose response had appeared neither in blog nor in email is more contextual. When I inquired them in the class why they did not respond, one of the students answered me that he would tell me the reason personally. The reason he told me in my chamber later was that they all did not know how to post in the blog.

    The reason sounded very ridiculous and it sounds so to many, but it was true.

    (Prem Sir, I shall write my respond once I go through all the references you have listed).

    Thank you,

    Khagendra

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