Mark Enfield, associate professor of education at Elon University, has been making waves in the educational world through his implementation of technology into local Alamance-Burlington classrooms.
Enfield began his project this past March, with Altamahaw-Ossipee Elementary School. He has partnered with third grade teacher Jayne Woodruff and fifth grade teacher Heather Boysel.
His work includes spending time in the classrooms with the students to practice an integrated type of learning, including a new role of iPads in an elementaryclassroom setting.
“Learning is not disciplinary bound,” he said. “I’ve been going into their classrooms everyday, working with them to do integrated science lessons.”
Woodruff said her students have enjoyed Enfield’s time with them.
“It excited them more than just the traditional style of teaching,” Woodruff said. “They were able to retain more information by being able to do more themselves rather than me doing it for them. They definitely learned a lot.”
Enfield’s strategy in the classroom combined what children knew and what they would learn.
“He engaged the children and empowered them. He used the prior knowledge they had learned at home about technology and brought it into the classroom,” Woodruff said.
Enfield said he believes engagement is one of the most important parts of implementing technology in a classroom.
Associate Professor of Education
He said, “We tend to focus too much on the technology, not what we are doing with the technology. We have to focus on how we are going to get people engaging with those devices.”
Enfield says that children today will grow into adulthood in a society that is surrounded by technology.
“Kids are living in this media-rich world, and that’s sort of their way of being in life, so trying to get that as a means of education for them is really what we’re doing with the iPads,” he said.
There are also several varying uses of technology in the classroom.
“Technology is primarily used as content delivery, meaning that children either watch a video, do internet research, or do something where they’re getting something from the technology. My contingency has been that they should also be generators of media.
“We use the iPads not only as information tools to gather information, but also tools that can help them communicate what they know about the world.”
But, the implementation of technology in classrooms may not render so easily.
“Schools have embraced this idea that technology needs to be in schools and that it’s a benefit for children’s learning,” Enfield said. “But the response has been inconsistent. In the classroom I’m in right now, there have been multiple different platforms that they’re using, like PC, Mac and Google.”
“They have all these different things, and they don’t always connect well together.”
This is one of the ways technology could be potentially detrimental to a child’s education.
“Technology can be used for so much, and a lot of what it can be used for is not advantageous to learning,” said Nolan Collins, a sophmore and elementary education major at Elon.
But Collins also said a technology component in a classroom could result in areas of greater collaboration.
“It can really help students with the interactivity,” Collins said. “Interactivity is a key thing for kids to be able to learn.”
Woodruff said she had seen technology increase student-to-student interactions.
“It was a way to force them to collaborate and work together,” Woodruff said. “It helped them be a little bit more mature in their learning. They had to show they were responsible enough to use it.”
“Some of the kids really came out of their shell and surprised us.”
Enfield acknowledges that technology is useful to a certain point. But real life experiences may be more influential.
“There are some great affordances, but there’s also some benefit to being engaged in the real world,” he said. “Technology can do amazing things in order for us to see how phenomena happens in the world. Does that mean I need to have a simulation of every phenomenon?”
Woodruff said that technology is not a means of substituting traditional lessons in the classroom.
“As an educator, you have to be careful not use it as a babysitter for teaching,” Woodruff said. “It has to be cohesive. It has to be a facilitator, not replace the teacher entirely. Some may use it in place of a teacher and I don’t think that’s very beneficial.”
Enfield and Woodruff agreed that in order for technology in the classroom to be successful, a balance is needed.
“We have to keep in mind that these are devices to enhance our lives, not to live our lives,” Enfield said. “We tend to focus too much on the technology, not what we are doing with the technology. We have to focus on how we are going to get people engaging with those devices.”