Well, we have officially entered the era of BYOT (Bring Your Own Technology) in schools. As we move further into the 21st century, it is glaringly apparent that we need to take a close look at the way we are introducing new topics to students. We need to be sure that we are preparing our students to be productive members of society in the future.
Is technology the answer?
Technology access has become an integral part of our children’s education. The various tools and products technology provides make education intriguing to young minds. It can make a mundane lesson come alive, and allow students to make a connection to assignments that they might not have been able to beforehand.
The integration of technology has improved both traditional teaching techniques and many curriculums themselves. Technology has provided more options in teaching students with special needs as well as students who are gifted. Technology has even made it possible for students to “attend” classes online via their computer. Students can receive instruction, complete coursework, and, if all goes well, graduate all from the comfort of their own home.
Is this the route we want to be on? Let’s take a look.
There are clear benefits from having technology in the classrooms. Not only do students and staff have access to millions of opportunities that are not available via a typical text book, they can present and organize ideas in new and exciting ways, create and perform assignments like never before, and lessons can be modified for students’ particular needs at the touch of a button. The typical, “the dog ate my homework” excuse would never apply again.
For students who are unable to attend a typical school, for whatever reason, a virtual school could certainly be beneficial. Students with severe emotional or medical concerns could still take a course or two and be able to work on some of the same assignments that their peers in the actual school are working on. They could work at their own pace and own time during the day. Students would not be restricted to the typical boundaries of the schools time and place; however the same educational standards could be upheld.
So what’s the downside?
With an increase in technology, comes the increase in students “tech-speak”. Oftentimes students don’t feel like the rules of grammar, syntax, and spelling apply when they are writing via technology; therefore the use of incorrect grammar is often carried over into formal writing assignments that are given in school.
A study was conducted at Stanford University that revealed the negative effects of students’ attachment to technology. Students’ attention spans are being reduced; they often find it hard to focus in the classroom for prolonged periods of time. The study also found that students are misusing memory portions of their brains that were previously used to store information learned in school. Technology is immediate and has given students the idea that learning can also be immediate. This, of course, is not the case, as we know learning takes practice and repetition, which has become increasingly more difficult for students whose attention and memory have been altered due to increases in technology uses.
And what about social skills?
Social skills and character education can’t be taught very well via computer. It is clear, by the sheer volume of programs that are available to purchase on-line, they can be taught to some degree. For example, students can watch videos about what it means to be a friend or how to apologize to someone after you have done something wrong. On the other hand, how to give a sincere apology is better learned on the playground or in a classroom after students have said something hurtful to each other. Character-building experiences cannot truly occur outside the context of the situation, or via a screen, they must be done with real human to human contact.
In the end, technology is a wonderful tool. A fantastic way to supplement student needs and peek their interests. Is there a negative side to introducing too much technology and not enough human interaction? Yes. Is there ever going to become a time when there is no longer the need for a physical school building, the actual institution in which we all learned how to coexist? I hope not.