Magazine article Anglican Journal

Technology Viewed as a Teaching Tool

Magazine article Anglican Journal

Technology Viewed as a Teaching Tool

Article excerpt

MONDAY MORNING, period three brings a new batch of 40 Grade 11 essays on Hamlet. It also brings an opportunity to see how the computer, and related technology, have affected the reading and writing of high school students. As a marker, I am delighted at the 40 printed assignments as I am released from the struggle to decipher spidery scripts. The writers, no doubt, also felt well satisfied with the professional appearance of their words. Moreover, they probably felt confident of the spelling because they had run spell check. But here the first problem arises. One cannot blame the 16-year-old for being tempted by the microchip as it offers knowledge without effort. But, unfortunately, the result is often a beautifully printed assignment which advertises the spelling weaknesses of the writer because the inaccurate spelling of homonyms has gone unnoticed. "There" instead of "their" and "who's" instead of "whose" are symptoms of intellectual dependence on a very expensive, and often very temperamental piece of technology.

Similarly, the versions of "the printer-ate-my-disk" excuse are numerous. They are an indication of a practical, as well as intellectual dependence on technology. I often suggest to my students that by depending on spell check and grammar check, they are putting themselves into an intellectual wheelchair. Using this analogy, I want them to understand that using a wheelchair is only welcome when one has lost the use of one's legs. Otherwise, it is an encumbrance limiting one's movement.

Ironically, while the computer encourages students to neglect precision, it has made the process of redrafting and revision much easier. Theoretically, they should be encouraged to spend more time producing fine pieces of writing. Perhaps because we have not shown them the most advantageous use of the computer, they are no more conscientious about polishing their writing than students of 20 years ago.

The computer makes writing easier. As a result, students, particularly those with superior typing skills, write more. Yet, the technology also encourages them to believe that when they have apparently achieved the outward and visible sign - a lengthy piece of writing - they have also assumed the inward and spiritual grace - a coherent expression of creative and critical thought. Thus, a three-page plot summary may replace the three paragraphs of analysis demanded by the question. Once again, the seductively easy use of technology has distracted students from the much more difficult task.

A student's writing so often reflects his reading and comprehension skills. Here, too, the computer has had an impact. CD-ROMs enrich the experience of reading, or so the salespeople would have us believe. Now, any eager or not so eager student may listen to Olivier's Hamlet while reading the text, while browsing through the footnotes and the accompanying critical commentary.

Here again, technology tempts us. But maybe the single expensive CD-ROM, running on a very expensive piece of hardware, is a poor substitute for the challenge of making Shakespeare's words mean something as you speak them.

Should we also be concerned that many North American students may have to spend thousands of dollars to obtain their Shakespearean experience on CD-ROM, students in the Grenadines may not be able to afford even a copy of the play? Moreover, while the CD may have offered a broader sensory experience, it has not offered flexibility. A student can take a well-thumbed text to a babysitting assignment, or on a bus, but a CD-ROM and its accompanying hardware is not that portable. …

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