Today’s modern society is becoming more and more reliant on different technologies to achieve even tasks that we once thought could not get any easier. Technological advancements are appearing in all facets of society from being able to bank with our mobile phones – even without a bank card, regular post is beginning to diminish, thousands of books are available on a single device, and tablets are being used to take our orders at restaurants.
While all of these technology uses appear to make our lives easier, what is it actually doing to our children’s development? How is this emerging digital age affecting their education and their abilities to perform tasks that we once had to master at school such as basic mental mathematics, their reading development and even their writing abilities?
Incorporation Of Technology In Schools Over The Past 10 Years
When I was in primary school, only eleven years ago, we only had basic technology in our classrooms. We may have had one computer, everyone had a basic numbers calculator – but only for really hard mathematics, and we may have been lucky enough to borrow the schools only television or projector once every so often.
In todays classrooms, just about every student either has a tablet or laptop, roll-call is done via a tablet, homework is given electronically and so is required readings. Even in kindergarten settings we see an increase in the use of technology. A friend of mines daughter, who is only four years old, uses a tablet to write her name as part of the morning attendance call. Schools of young children continue to use tablets to demonstrate how to write the letters of the alphabet and calculators are given out freely to perform mathematics.
Important Life Skills
So how does this integration of technology affect student learning? Firstly, what are the important skills to learn at school? These would have to be the skills they need to succeed in the future. They need the skills to perform the tasks required of them at work, and with an increasing digitized world, learning computer and other technology-based skills is vital. Do children in today’s modern world really need to know how to write a letter with neat handwriting? Not really.
Most forms of communication these days are performed via the internet. Although it is important to learn how to use technology as a form of communication, I also believe that technology is generating anti-social behaviours amongst children as well as adults. Many of us these days would rather talk to a friend over the internet than call them up to hang out somewhere. I believe that although technology is important for communication, the degree in which we are currently using it is having a negative effect on the social aspect of society.
What about with mathematics? When I was at school my teacher used to emphasise how important maths was in life because no one carries around a calculator in their pockets. Do we really need to know the extent of the mental mathematics knowledge today that we did 10 years ago? Because I would like to point out to my primary school and high school teachers that yes, everyone is, in fact, carrying around a calculator in their pockets. Perhaps we do not need to know advanced mental maths anymore, or even basic for that matter because I doubt society will revert back to a time without calculators on our phones. However, admittedly, there have been times where I have felt hopeless when needing to perform simple calculations and I couldn’t find my phone. As another example of how reliant we are on our convent technologies these days, I once taught a High School Chemistry student who never invested in a basic scientific calculator. Come exam time, she finally realised that she can’t take her phone into exams to use as a calculator. This certainly hindered the results of her education.
It is an arising trend that we are seeing less and less youth engaging in the rewarding hobby of reading books. When sitting on public transport, most people would rather be playing games such as Candy Crush, or scrolling through social media on their phones than to be absorbed in a good book. But has this increase in technology use hindered their reading capabilities? Or are we just becoming lazy at reading?
How Is Technology Affecting Learning?
Unfortunately, it is necessary to incorporate the use of technology in schools in todays society. Whether it be for learning purposes or to help save the environment by reducing the need for printed materials, computers are an important part in modern education. They prepare students for a digital-centered future in the workplace and world that is so technologically complex.
Research has shown that computers can actually aid learning, especially in areas of critical thinking, analysis, and scientific inquiry. However, some applications of computers have been shown to be more successful than others, and many factors influence how well these applications are implemented.
One study, conducted by Pearson et al., researched the effects of digital tools and learning environments to enhance literacy capabilities. The results demonstrated that it can have a very positive effect on reading comprehension. Another study, conducted by Mioduser et al., examined the contribution of computer-based instruction when compared to teacher and textbook instructions. The study focused on the acquisition of early reading skills, as well as the effects the technology has on reading performance. The results clearly defined that students who received their reading program via computer had significantly improved their phonological awareness, word recognition and letter naming skills in comparison with the non-computer teaching group. Considering the use of computers in schools has had such negative response, these studies clearly show that the addition of technology in the classroom actually has a positive effect on our children’s reading and writing.
Computers can be, and are, distracting for children. For every classroom that contains a computer, there is bound to be at least one student using them incorrectly by playing games, Googling things they shouldn’t be, or chatting on social media. But what difference does this make to schooling without computers? There has always been that one play-up peer that disrupts the class and acts up. But if they are only doing this on a computer, are they really becoming a class distraction? Or are they just hindering their own education? Even when used incorrectly, computers in the classroom are proving to be a beneficial investment. However, the use of computers must be balanced with technology-free education such as sports and lessons regarding communication and empathy amongst peers. These things cannot be taught via use of computers.
To conclude, computers are an essential and beneficial addition to our classrooms. Technology in the classroom has been evolving since the beginning of human time. Teachers just need to be aware that education requires a balance between computer use and reality learning.
Mioduser, D, H Tur-Kaspa, and I Leitner. “The Learning Value of Computer-Based Instruction of Early Reading Skills.” Journal of Computer-Assisted Learning 16 (2000): 54-63.
Pearson, David P, Richard E Ferdig, Robert L. Jr. Blomeyer, and Juan Moran. “The Effects of Technology on Reading Performance in the Middle-School Grades: A Meta-Analysis With Recommendations for Policy.” North Central Regional Education Laboratory, 2005.
What are your thoughts on the use of computers and other technologies in schools?
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