When to Say No to EdTech

I love to write about adapting technology to almost every area of the classroom and am a firm believer in its wonderful benefits across a wide range of subjects and situations. Having said that however, I am also keenly aware of the potential pitfall of trying to shoehorn technology into every single educational moment. An over-excitement with new technology can occasionally tempt teachers to include it where old-fashioned methods would actually be more effective. Here are 5 situations where I think edtech should be given a miss….

When closer guidance is needed…

One of the best uses of e-learning is to help students assimilate and really absorb information until they are thoroughly confident on a particular topic. So, after learning about a new subject in class, it can be really useful to use a fantastic form generator tool such as Google Forms to put their knowledge to the test! However, moving on to assessment tools like this too quickly may risk some students not thoroughly grasping the material in the first place and few online resources are as quick and effective at explaining a particular student’s specific questions as their own teacher! Make sure students have had every opportunity to ask for help and explanation before moving on to the edtech reinforcement stage!

When the old way is just…better!

There are some areas where old-fashioned techniques, though they can be brilliantly supplemented by education technology, shouldn’t be lost altogether, because their own benefits are still so great. In studying dramatic texts for example, whilst there are hundreds of fantastic online tools available to approach a playwright like Shakespeare, nothing quite matches the magic and effectiveness of hearing the play spoken and mapping it out with live performance in the classroom.

When taking first language steps…

There are plenty of brilliant linguistic websites (like Duolingo) to support language learning, and these can be hugely helpful for students as they progress. But though they can be useful with skills like vocabulary learning and verb conjugation, the very first steps of learning a language are a magical experience and there is something irreplaceable about speaking those first words face-to-face. Having somebody there in front of you to talk you through those first phrases, allowing you to mimic their word-formation and accent, and who can immediately pick up on your minor mistakes, helps you to build a strong and accurate foundation from which to progress. (Though, of course, face-to-face tools like Skype Classroom might enable edtech to sneak in even at this stage…I admit!)

When the expense outweighs the benefits…

Every school has to make difficult decisions about how to target funds to best effect. Often, investing in education technology is a fantastic use of money, but occasionally other resources are more important. Whilst getting adequate access to the internet to use e-learning resources is hugely useful, for example, upgrading machines to the latest models just to enable slight improvements in running speeds or access a few additional resources, might not always be worth the extra cost.

When watertight safeguards aren’t in place…

As tempting as it is to get stuck in to education technology, it is vital not to do so until a full range of electronic security options has been discussed and the best safeguards activated to ensure that students are completely safe online. Great advice is available online to support schools developing e-safety policies.

Do you ever say no to #edtech? Tell us when in the comments box below!


Feature image courtesy of Flickr, foilman.


  1. As I’ve been saying since 1975, “The truly computer literate person is the one who knows when to turn the computer off.” Laura’s comments begin to tease out some of the criteria for making this decision but each of these 5 situations needs further explication. To use the first situation as an example: when the student needs more guidance, sometimes the teacher can provide it. Sometimes, as is often the case for me, reading/viewing many different authors on the same subject is necessary to develop ‘confidence’. Access to open educational resources and lots of videos is just as important as a single live class presentation or an explanation from a teacher. Often ‘constructing’ or ‘synthesizing’ with the target material is equally necessary for deep understanding. Teacher as ‘guide on the side’ — someone who can send me to just the right resource is just what I need. This is not saying “no” to technology. It is using human and electronic technologies to best advantage for learning.

    1. Great comment Liza! And a very balanced view on the subject. It’s really about the most appropriate medium. This could be digital, or it could not. It’s really about not being locked into one or the other and in effect being medium-agnostic. Love your quote: “The truly computer literate person is the one who knows when to turn the computer off.” too.
      We may have to get your permission to use that on one of our posters :)

      1. I’ve been thinking about, watching and working with kids and computers for over 40 years so achieving a little balance has been important. You may find our project on the History of Computing in Learning and Education to be interesting and informative. Check out our wiki at http://www.hcle.org for a preview of the Virtual Museum we are building. From the ’60s on the ed tech pioneers could see today’s powerful technologies over the horizon and we put in a lot of thought about how best to deploy them. Many of us are disappointed that computing in schools has not fulfilled its potential to augment learning, individualize instruction and promote new relationships among students, teachers and communities. Instead we now have glorified, automatic page-turners and school administrators struggling to control unauthorized uses of electronic devices.

        Yes, please do use my quote, with attribution, and do join our community of educators who want to preserve the memory of historical uses of computing for learning in order to inform and guide future innovation.

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