As part of study my Diploma of Education in 2003 my practical placement was in a public high school of over 1000 girls. There was just one computer lab and very little technology besides. Their greatest technology was videos that could be streamed to the class TV via cable, operated by the librarian. There were chalkboards rather than whiteboards, let alone interactive ones.
My first ever foray into teaching using technology was a Commerce lesson booked into this one and only computer lab, using a worksheet to guide the students through the Fido website, www.fido.gov.au, and I mean guided. Yes, I had to entice them away from Chat Rooms and the Top 40 music sites but generally it was beneficial exercise. However, the students had very little concept as to how to find the information for themselves, they wanted every click to be provided for them. They enjoyed using the technology but for the actual lesson many were merely filling in the worksheet, not engaged in the topic. I believe they learnt more from Fido than they would have from me or the 20 year old textbooks the school had. I now understand the importance of discussion and enthusiasm for a topic before setting students loose on computers, with or without worksheets.
Now I am in a school where many of the classrooms are computer labs and my Commerce class is timetabled in one every lesson. Despite these students having a lot more opportunities to use technology they still need immense guidance to find information. Why? Because they want information to be instantaneous. They are engaged in class discussions and in many online activities but when it comes down to the not-so-exciting information that must be known and understood, according to syllabus requirements, should we be spoon feeding them?