Postsecondary institutions are still adapting to technology in class. A 2015 report by Universities Canada found that fewer than half of Canadian universities have a strategy to adopt digital technologies; others are still debating the merits of allowing laptops into lecture halls.
Dr. Thierry Karsenti, Canada Research Chair on Technologies in Education and a professor at the University of Montreal, believes technology in class is inevitable, and welcome. He’s researched the importance of training future teachers to integrate information and communication technologies in the classroom, analyzed the efficacy of massive open online courses and examined the uses of technology in primary, secondary, and postsecondary settings. His research demonstrates that the benefits of incorporating technology into education outweigh the challenges.
We spoke to Dr. Karsenti to discuss some of the obstacles educators face when incorporating tech into learning, and the importance of overcoming them.
What do you think are some of the biggest hurdles educators face in adopting new technology?
There are a few. Teachers need time to adopt new technologies in the classroom… They need to see how technology can change the way they’re going to teach, to fully benefit from its potential.
We can’t fully use technology and teach the same way we were teaching 20 years ago. It doesn’t work the same way anymore. You have to share more. You have to get students to collaborate. You have to give away some of your power as a teacher, because knowledge is accessible everywhere.
Two decades years ago, teachers were there to give access to knowledge—or books were there—but nowadays, we have the Internet. Teachers are competing with Facebook, YouTube, and all of that. If students can find the same information you’re teaching on YouTube or on Wikipedia, well, they’re not going to be that interested.
Teachers really have to think about how to adapt the way they’re teaching. The goal is still the same. You want students to learn, and to be interested. [You have to ask yourself,] “How can this new technology help?”
What do you say to those educators who are reluctant to adopt technology in their classrooms?
I think it’s good to be a little bit reluctant sometimes… But, those teachers, they have no choice. It’s not going to go away. If you wait a year, next year there is not going to be less technology around students. It’s going to be more. Knowledge is accessible everywhere. Now we have to help students to understand which technology is better, which one is fake news, and which one is not.
Socrates was against writing over 2,000 years ago; people were against printing when Gutenberg invented the printing machine. There are always people against innovation, and it’s normal. That’s how it goes, but as teachers, you can’t be against technology. You just have to see, “How can I use it to make sure my students are going to learn more?”
Another factor that seems to slow down the adoption of technology in class seems to be cost related factors. Do you have any thoughts on this?
Yes, of course, there is a cost… but I think it’s becoming more and more accessible. I think the biggest issue is: is it going to be used educationally at school? One of the most important issues, I would say, nowadays.
The cost is still there but if you look at all the benefits you can get from technology, and if you look at the cost you see, “Well, I’m really gaining a lot for what I’m paying for.”
This interview has been edited and condensed.
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