The main argument for technology in the classroom is that emerging students should be able to apply classroom concepts to daily life, and a large part of daily life revolves around technology. Students today are apt at using technology, and tools such as laptops, smart phones, and tablets are already second nature to them. Taking technology out of the learning equation would be alienating an integral part of the students’ abilities. Likewise, even if the student isn’t already technology-savvy, that’s even more of a reason to embrace the skill. Understanding technology is becoming more and more important in the workplace and other areas; competing with peers in the 21st century simply necessitates the need for technological finesse. But digital innovations can be a source of problems for schools as well.
1. Pace of Change
Not all schools can keep up with the rapidly changing technology. Upgrading equipment is often costly and schools may not have the manpower to handle the equipment. Most classrooms contain at least twenty students, which can take up a great deal of internet bandwidth in the instance that they all must access their laptop or tablet at once. Likewise, new hires may be necessary for teaching students how to use the newer digital media, yet another expense to the school. This could be as complex as needing an IT staff to work out potential glitches in the system to hiring teachers with a comprehension for various software instead of teachers that are somewhat less skilled with technology. If a student is required to do homework using the tablet, their parents may not be able to help them with any questions they may have if they are not familiar with the software or equipment.
2. Different Social Dynamics
Furthermore, an online school doesn’t offer the same social benefits of a regular school. Without a classroom where students can form friendships and relationships with their peers, they may not learn the same social cues as regular students. Without any real face-to-face time with their teacher, they may take the classes less seriously.
Many teachers believe that smartphones and tablets, with internet connectivity and text messaging services, can merely be a source of distraction for students as opposed to a learning tool. It may be difficult for a teacher to monitor her students so closely in class as to determine whether they are utilizing educational apps on their tablets or browsing Facebook. The teacher must decide whether or not to use filtered browsing on the devices to cut down on distractions, which might not be an option if the child owns the device.
4. Technology Out-thinking the Instruction
There are also discrepancies as to how much of a crutch technology can be to a student. Schools once debated about whether or not certain types of calculators should be allowed in class, as they essentially solved the problems for students that struggled with math. The same may be true for apps that supply quick, accessible answers for problems that a student should actually be thinking about in greater depth. (Ed note: This is also an issue of instructional design than an argument against technology, but it does underscore the need for revised instructional design in light of technology.)
5. Learning Innovation vs Improved Test Performance
The New York Times article “In Classroom of Future, Stagnant Scores,” discusses a school in the Kyrene School District that has fully implemented technology in the classroom. Since 2005, the school has invested around $33 million in technology, par a passing vote. Children use laptops and tablets for their work and integrate things like Facebook groups into regular projects. Unfortunately, the school is also suffering from low standardized test scores. (Ed note: unfortunately, it seems entirely plausible that test scores and actual learning may not be as tethered as we’d like.)
While statewide test scores have risen, Kyrene School District remains stagnant in the face of all of their innovation. Teachers worry that while the technology is engaging on a creative level, the students may be missing out on basic concepts like math and language. Other proponents of technology point out that standardized test scores may not be the best gauge of student intelligence and creativity. Still others yet reason that there’s no reason to spend millions of well-earned tax dollars on a system before knowing whether or not it is sincerely helpful for educational growth.
This is a cross-post from our content partners at Top10OnlineUniversities.org; Ed notes from TeachThought staff.