Is Technology a Good Teacher?

Ed Tech

How much technology is too much? This is a question that society has been asking for decades. Years ago concerns were raised about too much T.V. then came concerns about video game use. Today we’ve reached a point where technology is no longer qualified into simple arenas like these, instead it has become an integral part of how we operate on a daily basis and therefore the implications of its use or overuse are greater than ever.

An article in Tech News World points out that “Technology access has been linked to improved reading skills, but some believe that too much technology can impose dangers on today’s youth — including vision impairment, technology addiction and sexual solicitation. To be sure, technology opens the doors to a world that includes much more than convenience, knowledge and entertainment.”

Tech News World reports on the results of studies involving children and the effects that over exposure to technology can have on their ability to process information. It states that “Their brains get used to too much auditory and visual stimulation — and in the absence of these stimulations, they do not know what to do with themselves…They get anxious, restless, bored and aggressive.” The article likens the subjects behavioral patterns to patterns associated with addiction.

The article continues to express the positive aspects of technology as a learning tool, explaining that “When used responsibly, television can be a powerful interactive medium that provides parents with unique opportunities to bond with their children. The key is the quality and interactive nature of the content”.

One significant point raised is the need for balance in life and the importance of teaching children to exhibit a degree of self-control. Psychological findings that demonstrate that “Incessant exposure to “all day TV,” violent video games, instant messaging, and the always accessible cell phone interferes with the development of the psychological traits known to be essential to positive outcomes for children”.

Further findings suggest that over exposure to technology can be seriously damaging, potentially leading to qualifiable behavioral problems such as inattentiveness in the classroom, ADD, ADHD, and even being labeled with bi-polar disorder. These are also children who show little interest in physical activity and sports.

Although with so many concerns surrounding the overuse of technology and how children can be negatively impacted, isn’t it possible that parents and teachers have become too resistant to change?

Many fail to see the benefits that technology can bring to our schools and instead of embracing these kinds of advancements they continue to implement restrictions. For example, having a pretty good understanding of the distraction cell phones can be, many schools have banned them entirely.

That being said, big changes are happening every day. Let’s face it, gone are the days when computers were limited to a single room deemed a computer lab where students had to book time to surf the Internet. In fact, to the contrary it seems that one by one more and more schools are becoming more open minded and embracing the digital world.

According to an article on “Personal electronic devices used to be banned in (St. Mary’s Ohio’s school board) middle and high schools, but this year, these devices are allowed for the first time—part of a new pilot project called ‘bring your own technology.’ The board is facing cutbacks, and ‘the way technology changes, it’s hard to keep up,’…Students’ devices will be a resource in class for online research and other purposes. Allowing cellphone use also gives teachers a chance to discuss tech etiquette, like why textisms might be appropriate shortcuts in a text message, but not in an essay.”

The article also profiles Eric Moccio a music and media arts teacher at a school in St. Catharines Ontario. In a school where students aren’t allowed to use their cell phones at all, Moccio takes a different approach.

Instead of banning students’ phones the innovative teacher actually “employs his students’ phones as a teaching tool: he recently had them vote via text message on the topic of an upcoming video project. Moccio projected a live chart to the front of the class, which “readjusted to show numbers as votes came in, American Idol-style…Today’s smartphones can do much more than just make calls; ‘they’re computers,’ Moccio says, and with so many students carrying powerful devices in their pockets these days, ‘we’d be fools not to use them.’” explains that “Smartphones are just one tool within the high-tech classroom…a small room has been fitted with screen displays on three of its four walls, and is transformed via projections into a Borneo rainforest…As part of their Grade 11 biology class, students visited the room to track clouded leopards, proboscis monkeys, fig trees, and other species indigenous to Borneo, studying everything from the food they eat to how they evolve over time…Working with tablet computers, they logged their findings, which were then displayed at the front of the room on two interactive whiteboards, called SMART Boards.”

According to The Guardian, “Throughout history, technology has caused disruption, but the Internet is particularly significant…After this generation, the gap won’t seem as big. There’s a real sense of anxiety [from older generations] about new technology…Kids have no fear of newness…A child will go straight into applications and menu structures instinctively, whereas an adult will tentatively work their way through.”

The Guardian continues to explain that it is not sure if we’re experiencing a once-in-a-generation transition or just the acceleration of technology that will continue to grow. Regardless, Generation Z will be far better off to cope with technological experiences that their parents could only begin to imagine.

“There’s a lot of excitement about technology’s potential to build a better classroom, but it’s important not to introduce technology for technology’s sake alone… Moccio believes it’s inevitable that we’ll see more technology infiltrate the classroom. As teachers, academics and students start to learn all the ways these devices can enhance a student’s learning, that should slowly start to change. ‘Education, unfortunately, is slow to mimic the real world,’ Moccio says, ‘but it will.’”

What seems to be most important in all of this is the idea that technology has many faces and can present endless opportunities. As parents and teachers, although it’s important to be aware of the negative aspects of technology overload, we mustn’t discount the amazing benefits it can bring to our children. Like most things in life, the key seems to be about achieving a healthy balance.

For more on the subject check out Mind Shift’s Golden Rules of Using Technology in Schools



Image Source: Teacher Talk 10