Technology can play a critical role in education, particularly in personalizing education in certain areas. There are other aspects that technology wouldn't necessarily be important if you're talking about things like relationship building or discussing the human condition. I think right now technology is being overused because it's a new thing and we're over applying it. And a lot of times students are sitting and not using it appropriately.
I think when technology is used to help students generate content and understand how the web works, because obviously it's essential to life now, it can have very healthy uses. The challenge comes in all the consumptive ways that we end up using it. Even for educational purposes, if it's just merely consuming educational information I don't know if it has as great a value. The youth that I work with get a lot of enjoyment out of creating music, creating videos, creating games, art presentations, things like that. As long as there's a creative component to it, it enhances education.
I think there are great ways for technology to be the classroom, not just a tool in the classroom. Like Skype in the classroom; whole classes from different parts of the world can connect. Right now I teach English from home to kids living in China but it's still totally a classroom experience. You can really go past just using an app for technology. You can help students connect to the world and think about similarities and differences in different cultures.
I worry that some teachers use technology as a babysitter because they're overwhelmed, they have too many students in the class. So they're like, "Wow, go get your iPads and do Wiz Kids; go get your iPads and do Math Reflex." But on the other hand the students are totally engaged and they could be learning something, but I'm not really sure. I think it could be a really useful tool as long as we reflect on it and evaluate it constantly.
Technology is a set of tools. Used well I've seen it enhance language instruction, provide exciting ways for students to review content, and also facilitate peer and instructor communications outside of school hours. But there is a push to get schools to buy new technology in bulk through various incentives. This doesn't seem rational because students should be guided to use technology in observed contexts. They're not mature enough to handle it all on their own. But when laptop screens are facing away from a teacher who is using a Smart Board at the front of the room this allows students opportunities to lose focus. Too often I've seen technology that is meant to facilitate learning quickly being used to distract.