Technology impacts everything we do, including education. What does our constant connection mean for our modern classroom and what can we do to help our students overcome their addiction?
Technology Dependency and the Impact on the Modern Classroom
These days, children from Pre-K to college have access to smartphones, tablets, and other media. We allow our children to use electronic devices to communicate, educate, and entertain themselves at such a level that some experts worry that it will have an adverse impact on the way they learn and interact with one another in the future. But does it? Does our growing dependence on technology really mean that our children will be incapable of learning, or does it, in fact, open up a world of discovery greater than any we ever imagined?
A Brave New World
When I was in elementary school, we would listen to the teacher lecture, make notes, complete small activities, and take sheets home to finish with our parent's help. If we had a question that couldn't be answered in class, we would make our way to the library and hope our small facility had the information we needed. If not, we would order a book from another library and wait for it to arrive. It could be days or even weeks until we got the information we needed and, more often than not, we would forget what the question was in the interim.
Today, if a student needs more information than the teacher can provide, it only takes a few clicks of the mouse to find the answer and share it with the class. This advancement allows students to dig deeper into a subject while the information is still fresh. Young scholars now have nearly unlimited knowledge from which to draw during their research... something that seemed like science fiction when I was a child.
This new access to information doesn't just impact students. We can now connect to resources from places like the Museum of Modern Art and NASA to build interactive learning modules that engage students and excite their imaginations. These resources allow them to gain a better understanding of any subject - often at no cost. Teachers can also get support from other educators from around the globe. A click lets us exchange lesson plans, ideas, and even classroom help virtually, without leaving the building. This access to information has opened up a new world that lets us provide our students with world-class learning experiences even in underfunded districts.
Unlike my early learning experience, where teachers ordered supplies from catalogs or made learning aids from the materials they had available, modern teachers can:
- Stream live video from the International Space Station
- Conduct virtual field trips to world heritage sites
- Access digital textbooks
- Stream educational videos
- Skype with guest speakers from anywhere in the world
- Access tutors in a variety of topics
- Watch recorded lectures to enhance the classroom experience
The list is virtually endless. With nothing more than a high-speed internet connection and a computer, we can now deliver the world to our classrooms.
While the rise of new technology has made teaching and learning more exciting and interactive, there are some challenges as well. Students are now more dependent on technology to complete basic tasks. The overuse of text-speak and emojis in daily conversation also makes it harder for students to write clearly. Student device usage can be a huge distraction in the classroom as well. According to a report by Common Sense Media, half of all teens confess to an addiction to technology. This professed addiction concerns many experts and parents who feel that their students may, in fact, be setting themselves up for a life where they are incapable of thinking for themselves.
Smaller, faster devices make it easier for some students to cheat as well. With more students and high-speed data plans, students can ask a question and receive an answer before the teacher even notices. But these challenges can provide teachable moments too. Teachers can use these issues to build lessons that delve into the topics of self-regulation, honesty, addiction, and what it means to be a connected community. We can use the problem to create the solution and empower our students along the way.
A Bright Future
It's undoubtedly true that our modern students are more dependent on technology than we would like. But that doesn't mean there is no hope for future generations. Kids are smart. They are capable of recognizing the dangers of excessive tech use and can learn to limit themselves without losing the many benefits that modern technology provides. As teachers, technology has put us into the position of being more than instructors; we are now facilitators, mentors, counselors, and coaches. Technology allows us to do that and, if used right, can help our students learn to police themselves while opening up a world of understanding that we once only dreamed about.
And isn't that really the point?