Panel breaks down role of tech in the classroom

As part of their launch into the university space last Wednesday, Fourth View Media, a news startup, took on an issue widely disputed by all screen-dependent students and their Luddite professors: the use of tech in the classroom.

Tech or No Tech?

The event, co-hosted by GW’s Young Americans for Liberty (YAL), adopted the moniker of “Black Mirror,” not only in an attempt to appeal to tech-enthused undergrads, but also to reflect how the issue is becoming a hot topic outside of the classroom as schools have begun taking up arms against tech.

“We’re increasingly seeing more advanced schools abandon technology and revert to more project-based learning and collaborative instruction,” said YAL member Dominic Conoshenti. “Getting to hear from experts on this issue awakened us to how much of a problem this has become.”

Fourth View, a news group dedicated to promoting a variety of viewpoints, invited five panelists to the small discussion, including specialists from the education sector and professionals from the private sector and development spheres.

Both of the educators present emphasized the transcendent role of human agency regardless of the extent to which tech is permitted in the classroom.

“To me, it boils down to who I was with and not if I was using technology,” said Wade Whitehead, a fifth-grade teacher based in Roanoke. “Technology isn’t what makes the difference: it’s teachers, it’s human capital.”

Rachael Forker, city director for Lemonade Day in D.C., echoed Whitehead’s points.

“At the end of the day, it’s a person moving forward with a plan, creating it, enacting it, and actually going forward with the steps,“ she said.

Yet, technology spells potential for tailoring teaching to what each student actually needs.

“I think that a benefit of technology is being able to accommodate for a lot of different learning styles,“ Forker said.

However, there’s also the issue of too much of a good thing. Miguel Gorman, an official from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), explained that tech in the classroom does peak at a maximum potential before the benefits seemingly disappear.    

“Technology use in classrooms is good up to a certain point and then actually, it gets worse,“ he said.

In fact, according to an OECD study published in 2015, a number of countries that have invested heavily in technology for education have not seen improvement in their performances for reading, mathematics, or science.

“I think we need to think about the cost of not getting all of this right,“ said Gorman. “There’s only so much that technology can do.”

Plenty of undergrads would be interested in Jeremy Rossmann’s take on tech-learning and its impact on job prospects as well.

“There is no industry that is not a tech industry,” said Rossmann, co-founder of San Francisco’s Make School. “To be at the top of desirability in any kind of industry, it is a huge plus to have exposure to digital skills.”

Food for thought, but the impact of tech is still questionable.

“It’s hard to say that this is what’s right for schools right now because… schools are going to look very different across the board,“ said Forker.

FourthView’s Launch

Tackling tech with students was the brainchild of Fourth View Media, a startup dedicated to giving a voice to students on national issues.

“We're reaching out to students and young professionals who've been fed up,” said Dylan Thomas, a content strategist at Fourth View. “We feel that students have been disenfranchised; their voice has not been heard in the national narrative.”

The goal of the event was to reach out to those loyal to a variety of perspectives in order to facilitate an educational discussion on issues pertinent to students today.

“We feel that political discourse these days doesn't have nearly as much discourse on certain keys issues that we're particularly passionate about as it should,” said YAL Vice President Matthew Fuzi.

Fuzi emphasized the academic and intellectual hopes of the event and those similar in the future.

“Tonight's not about taking a definitive position,” he said. “It's about having an informed discussion on this matter because we want to expand our own bounds of knowledge.”

The event, which is the first of its kind as part of Fourth View’s Alpha Omega student engagement program, did not boast too much of a turnout, however.

“We probably could have considered advertising more heavily and attracting more people interested in the subject matter who may have simply not been told about our event,“ Fuzi said.

Nor was the input of students highlighted as Fourth View had initially envisioned.

“For our next event, we plan to introduce the topic and speakers more swiftly so attendees can interact with both much sooner,“ Thomas said. “We hope future events are more student-driven.”

The GW community can look forward to more events like these in the future.

“We’re looking for student input on future topics to discuss; we’ve been thinking about drugs, sex and education, AI and big tech, or immigration,” said Thomas.

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