By Jeppe Damberg, UWCM
March 4th, 2018
Google Classroom is supposed to expand the classroom beyond physical walls and allow students to have equal access to learning materials. This, hopefully, should sharpen our intellect and create a better learning environment. They only forgot one thing; the internet is a magnificent place with millions of websites ready to entertain us whenever we feel like.
I like to think of myself as a diligent student with a fine sense of responsibility, so why is it that I rarely find myself on Google Classroom during classes? More often than not, I am sending emails or working on something completely irrelevant to my class – such as editing this paper. I am aware that it is entirely my responsibility to stay focused, yet it feels like my classes have changed completely in nature in my second year at UWC. I hardly ever used my laptop in class last academic year. Instead, I had handouts, which are unsustainable, but at the same time gave my teacher the ability to be in somewhat control of where I focused my attention. Now, it seems that my teachers have lost that ability entirely.
More than a few times a class, teachers have to raise their voices to gain the attention of students who, seemingly, are having the most interesting class on Google Classroom ever. It appears to me that Google Classroom is ultimately limited by the fact that we can access other programs and websites which always provide more entertainment than engaging in class. The unspoken agreement between student and teacher – that when in class they are on a journey together in learning – seems to have been removed and we now simply occupy seats where what we spend our time on is completely in our own hands. Indeed, instead of expanding the classroom, it seems to me that Google Classroom has, quite frankly, eliminated class itself.
We can blame us, the students, for being irresponsible, but I think it is impossible to expect students not to be distracted when all it takes is a quick google search. We can blame the teachers for not managing what we spend our time on in class, but that would be reducing teachers to simple enforcers, hurt the student-teacher relationships we are so proud of, and ultimately limit the learning environment.
A conversation I had recently raised another interesting point. One argument for the full implementation of Google Classroom is that it allows teachers to create more exciting learning material, but, in reality, Google Classroom has not replaced “boring” handouts at all, they have simply been uploaded to our screens. We see in front of us no new learning material, it is the same A4 papers but just more difficult to throw away. Perhaps we should be careful in rushing towards fully integrating our learning environment digitally until we have a clear overview of the benefits. There exists firms and consultants, such as the Scottish company NoTosh, who look at not just the integration of digital learning systems but at whether they are effectively implemented – NoTosh is Scottish slang for no bullshit. Such expertise could be beneficial for our school as we to continue our move towards a digitally integrated learning environment.
I am a great admirer of technological advancement in the classroom. But I am afraid that now, when my teacher has no ability to limit what I am accessing, my mind will wander off to more exciting, entertaining places found on the internet. To gain from our move to a more digital learning environment, we must observe clearly what is happening now in the classrooms and decide whether we are integrating the right way.
Jeppe Damberg was a student at United World College Maastricht 2016-2018. He founded the Flying Dutchman in 2017.