Technology is everywhere, be it to order food, for banking or research and many more. Almost everyone has a smartphone and many have a digital presence. A toddler watching cartoons and nursery rhymes on tablets and laptops is not uncommon these days.
So one should not be surprised to find traditional classrooms with blackboard, chalk, and books now introducing smart boards, tablets, and computers in their schools and colleges. We now have online classes and flipped classrooms. Today, preschools, schools, and colleges are actively involved in using technology in some form or the other. In fact, this is also used as a unique selling point of the school or college.
Adopting technology into the classrooms has changed the way teachers teach and students learn. Technology offers both interactive and engaging means of learning for a student. Laptops, tablets, mobile phone are now commonly used as a tool for leaning. On one side it a valuable tool for learning, but on the other, it can also easily turn out to be a great source of distraction for them as well.
So can technology be used as a powerful tool to teach or is it just a source of major distraction? Will it enable students to learn well or will it distract the students from their primary purpose for being in school, which is to learn? There are arguments both for and against the same. Let us consider each of them.
Technology as a tool.
Engaging learning experiences
Technology introduces an element of fun and colour into the otherwise boring subjects. Audio-video methods of teaching leave more impact on the students. Learning becomes a fun and engaging experience for students as they can use various methods to learn such as watching a video, answering an online quiz, taking an online test etc. Technology also caters to students with different learning styles.
Easier to research for data for projects
For children, research and project work has also become very easy thanks to all the online and digital tools available today. All information is just a click away, making research and assignments much faster and easier to complete. What’s more, students can now easily get up-to-date information about any topic. They don’t have to depend only on books printed years ago.
Quicker understanding and retention of complex topics
Animations, audio-visual methods of teaching leave a better impact on the students. Complex concepts and topics can be visually explained. For example, it’s easier to show a video of how a volcano erupts rather than just talk about it. Also, slow learners can learn at their own pace once the classroom session is over. With technology, the students can organise their study material and easily extract information with just a few clicks.
However, along with lots of benefits that technology brings, there are also several areas of concerns as well. Some of them include:
Technology as a distraction
One of the major concerns that both teachers and students agree about is that technology can be a major source of distraction.
As students get more and more active on the social media, the students tend to get distracted with unrelated topics such as checking their status updates on the social media, playing games and shopping online or by simply texting and checking messages that pop on their WhatsApp and more. Teachers cannot monitor all the students all the time. Students also agree that when mobile phones are allowed in the classrooms, they were easily distracted.
Development of motor skills
It is not surprising to find many schools, especially for toddlers using IPads and television to teach nursery rhymes and more. For younger children, by replacing books with tablets their hand-eye coordination, attention span and other motor skills development may be delayed. The radiation from electronic equipment can also impact the children growth.
As more and more and more students spend time with their smartphones and laptops, social interaction becomes limited. In fact, their interactions are now limited to online friends and chatting and messaging is becoming a primary form of communication while face to face interactions are on the decline.
The human brain has a limited capacity to hold information. In today’s world, a huge amount of information is easily available on the web. A child can get bogged down with the amount of data he or she is able to access. This can impact the processing capacity of the child and they will not be able to filter the information correctly. This, in turn, will lead to a reduction in the quality of the decision or assessment done by the child.
Reduction in creativity and problem-solving skills
Since information is easily available, students might not put on their thinking caps and may not use their problem-solving skills to optimal. This might hamper their cognition ability especially in the subject such as mathematics, languages, and creativity.
Cyberbullying and online addiction
Children might get addicted to the Internet. Garnering number of “likes” on the pages can become more important than their lessons. Children can also get easily influenced by the negative influence of the web. The recent episodes of Blue Whale challenge that caused many children to be influenced negatively, even to the point of death, is a case in point. Cyberbullying is yet another aspect that can harm the children. However, by using child-friendly search engines and possessing admin rights can lessen the access.
Technology can be a boon or a bane depending on how polices around it are implemented. There should be a judicious mix of how and when technology can be used in a classroom. Each aspect of technology, such as using mobiles in the classroom, availability of the Internet in school, collaboration tools and how it will be used, etc. should be carefully scrutinized and the impact of these tools assessed. Technology should promote and improve learning.
By developing and implementing policies to plan, measure and manage technology based on the school or colleges current and long-term needs is one way of ensuring that there is a right balance of technology and learning happening in classrooms.