Nowadays, it seems as if everyone has a phone, a computer or some other type of electronic device. This instant access to communication is often seen as a positive thing. People can respond much more rapidly and information is readily available to us. But the question persists; does technology in the classroom actually help students learn?
Personal electronic devices have now been around for over a decade. Instant access to information has drastically changed the way students think and learn today. However, many schools continue to reconsider their approach to technology.
There are many different strategies to combat technology in schools. There are some schools that have instituted a complete ban, where students must hand over their devices before they step in the classroom. Others have an open use policy, where students can use their devices openly—within reason, of course. Some schools (mostly highly-funded, private schools) even pay to have laptops and tablets distributed to their students. These are often fitted with special software to prohibit use of certain sites throughout the school day. But, what is the best approach to technology in school? Does any of this really help students?
A Pew Research Center study found that 90 percent of teachers believe that instant access to information is creating an easily distracted generation with very short attention spans. About 60 percent said it’s hindering student’s ability to write and communicate face to face, and close to half reported that it has hurt their critical thinking and ability to do homework. 76 percent of teachers think that the internet is conditioning students to find quick answers, leading to a lack of concentration.
According to the Pew Research Center, students are constantly distracted, and their memory is alarmingly unorganized. The ability to tweet or lurk through Facebook while students should be focused on an assignment promotes a lack of focus. Teachers are now often made to perform the “put your phone away” charade several times a day.
However, many teachers also agree that even though technology has created a problem, it could also be the solution.
Teachers also agreed that technology can be a useful tool in the classroom when it is used properly. About 75 percent of teachers surveyed stated the internet and search engines had a “mostly positive” effect on their student’s research skills. Having these search engines readily available to them helped make them more independent, self-sufficient researchers.
Many teachers also look to incorporate technology into their lesson plans. From videos explaining certain topics, to interactive games, to online school, there can be many benefits when technology is used correctly in the classroom. It can make for a more efficient, interactive lesson, and allow students more independence in their research.
Overall, there may never be one single approach to technology that works for all schools across the United States of America. At Keene State College, use of personal devices during class is most often the teacher’s decision. While everyone agrees that there’s no stopping technology’s development, there are steps administration can take to employ that these changes are positive instead of negative. As technology continues to evolve, so must school policies surrounding its use.
Lindsay Gibbons can be contacted at