Why I am so sceptical about technology in the classroom

I mentioned in an earlier post that I was caught in the hype surrounding technology in the classroom. I wanted to expand upon that a little. It was claimed that technology would ‘close the gap’, democratise learning and make education more fun and engaging for example.  Some claimed that technology would be better than the teacher. Students wanted to access learning at any time and not just within the confines of the classroom.  As teachers, we needed to stop being luddites and catch up. It would ‘personalise’ learning and those with learning needs would have the necessary support. On the latter, I do think there is some merit to the tech still.  Yet my own experience in the classroom made me doubt some of those lofty claims. Was this just really good marketing by profit hungry companies? Where was the evidence?


Actually, I would argue that the evidence on the effectiveness of ‘edtech’ is quite thin. We do though have a body of evidence that warns against the unchecked use of technology in the classroom. One report found that checking phones in lectures halls can cost a student a whole grade.

In another report found that test scores were better when students took notes on paper rather than on a laptop (Something that also applies to iPads etc.) One problem with iPad is that they are associated with entertainment and so serve as a distraction in the classroom unless they are managed.

A further study by Baron, N. S. (2015). Words onscreen: The fate of reading in a digital world’ noted that reading on an iPad or the equivalent encouraged skim reading rather than ‘deep reading’. Reports have also suggested that once technology is introduced in the classroom, the students then struggle to concentrate in more traditional lessons. Students report that without the tech that lessons were ‘boring’.

Arguably though, there is still some room for technology in the classroom. Surely, this is all about balance. Rather than technology replacing the teacher, the teacher should control and regulate it. After all, we are in the best position to know what helps our own students learn!

Here are a few more of my favourite bits of technology that I still use and you may not have come across.


  1. If you are doing a lesson with some IPads then you might like this tool https://classroomq.com/. It is very easy to set up, just sign in and give the students a class code. They can then ask for help and it puts them into a digital queue. No more complaining about who had their hand up first. No more yells of ‘Miss’ 200 hundred times across the classroom. It works!


  1. I am on a mission to improve the evaluation of provenance in my lessons. One way I am attempting to do this is to get my students to keep short biographies on key individuals that they cover. This way they can make more informed comments about their roles or motivations when analysing a source. I came across this neat tool that allows students to create ‘trading cards’ which they can print out and save for revision. http://www.readwritethink.org/classroom-resources/student-interactives/trading-card-creator-30056.html


  1. I do like the odd game of bingo with my students as a starter. I will read a definition or an event perhaps, the students identify the word or date on their card. This great tool generates the bingo cards for you ready to hit print. https://myfreebingocards.com/.


  1. I have always been a big fan of http://www.classtools.net/. I particularly like the Dustbin game for finding similarities and differences between two historical figures. Label two bins with the names of two people you wish to compare and have a third labelled ‘same’. Students can then come to the front and drop in policies into the right bin. If the student is wrong, it slows them down.


  1. For mind maps, I have been using https://www.mindmup.com/. This is quite straight forward to use. Remove all notes and materials first though and invite the students to start with what they remember about the topic. This really highlights what the students can remember or not! I use this then as a framework for further revision.

Regular users of History Rocks also know that I am a big fan of Podcasting for students. I am currently recording a Cold War Special and I have created lots of episodes on A level essay skills which you can find here.