As we become more and more entrenched in the 21st Century, it is clear that technology is playing a larger role in our everyday lives – including in schools. At Royal School every classroom enjoys the benefits of a Smart board as well as desktops, laptops, tablets, phablets and phones! Students seem to be so tech-savvy that sometimes it is necessary for us, as both parents and educators, to ask the ubiquitous teen techie for help!
Around 75% of educators around the world feel that technology is certainly aiding them in their teaching – virtually anything can be downloaded, changed so it is fit for purpose and delivered by even the most basic smartphone. What is clear is that technology is beginning to mould and shape our lives and manner in which we operate in this fast-moving global village.
Technology certainly creates a huge amount of benefit to the teacher and the learner – copying off the board can be seen as a mundane task when the students can simply take a photograph and review, reduce and assimilate the information at a later time. However, with such a ‘gift’ comes responsibility and a part of that responsibility rests on the shoulders of the educators who need to ensure that our leaders of tomorrow have the technological skills required to enter the workplace once they have completed their schooling.
The impact that technology has had on today’s schools has been quite significant. The adoption and adaptation of schools has meant that the manner in which teachers teach and pupils learn, has completely transformed. Teachers are learning how to teach with emerging technologies (tablets, iPads, Smart Boards, digital cameras, computers), while students are using advanced technology to shape how they learn. By embracing and integrating technology in the classroom, we are setting our students up for a successful life outside of school. Here are a few benefits of using IT:
Technology in the Classroom Makes Learning More Fun
According to a recent study, students prefer technology because they believe that it makes learning more interesting and fun. They especially like laptops and tablets. Subjects that students deem challenging or boring can become more interesting with virtual lessons, through a video, or when using a tablet.
Technology Prepares Students for the Future
CompTIA’s study showed that 9 out of 10 students indicated that using technology in the classroom would help prepare them for the digital future. These 21st-century skills are essential in order to be successful in this day and age. Jobs that may not have had a digital component in the past may have one now. Education isn’t just about memorising facts and vocabulary, it is about solving complex problems and being to collaborate with others in the workforce. Educational-technology (Ed-tech) in the classroom prepares students for their future and sets them up for this increasing digital economy.
Improved Retention Rate
Student perceptions in the study believe that technology helps them retain information better. According to a different study, these students may be on to something. Eighteen Year 2 students were challenged to complete a Power Point project about an animal. Sixteen out of the eighteen students remembered more facts about the animal after completing the presentation. These results show that technology indeed helps students remember what they learn.
Technology Helps Students Learn at Their Own Pace
Today’s technology enables students to learn at their own pace. For example, almost all apps allow for individualised instruction. Students can learn according to their abilities and needs. This form of teaching is also great for the teacher because it gives him/her the time to work individually with students who may be struggling.
Technology Connects with Students
Technology occupies an important place within students’ lives. When they are not in school, just about everything that they do is connected in some way to technology. By integrating technology into the classroom, teachers are changing the way they used to teach (lectures six or seven hours a day) and providing students with the tools that will take them into the 21st century.
Technology changes by the minute, and, as educators, we need to keep up with the times in order to best prepare our pupils for this ever-changing world in which we live.
Many teachers still feel that there is space for traditional methodologies – hence the buzzword of ‘Blended’ education which is being tossed around at the moment – this is a blending of the traditional alongside the modern, 21stcentury models. Pupils still need to understand how elements of each subject works through modelling on the part of the teacher. This is then reinforced through homework and the use of IT. Gone are the days of the student being regarded as an empty vessel to be filled with knowledge – pupils are now required to be active learners and to exercise their brains with interpretation, analysis, exploration, evaluation and synthesis (a topic for a further newsletter!).
Another negative is the over-reliance upon technology for both teachers and pupils. From a teacher perspective it is essential that, whilst there are excellent resources out there for use in the classroom, these need to be adapted for use with individual pupils – thus requiring the same amount of knowledge and planning. For students there is the temptation to adapt answers from the internet which required little or no discipline to obtain. In an examination a pupil will not have access to the internet and will very quickly be found wanting. So, whilst the internet provides incredibly valuable sources for development it is important that these are used wisely from the perspective of all.
Negative #1: Technology Changes the Way Children Think
Using technology can change a child’s brain. An article in Psychology Today says that the use of technology can alter the actual wiring of the brain. More than a third of children under the age of two use mobile media. That number only increases as children age, with 95% of teens 12-17 spending time online. The time spent with technology doesn’t just give kids newfangled ways of doing things, it changes the way their brains work. For example, the article says that while video games may condition the brain to pay attention to multiple stimuli, they can lead to distraction and decreased memory. Children who always use search engines may become very good at finding information—but not very good at remembering it. In addition, the article said, children who use too much technology may not have enough opportunities to use their imagination or to read and think deeply about the material.
Negative #2: Technology Changes the Way Children Feel
Using technology can affect a child’s ability to empathise. A study on two groups of Year Six pupils found that children who had no access to electronic devices for five days were better at picking up on emotions and nonverbal cues of photos of faces than the group that used their devices during that time. The increased face-to-face interaction that the test group had made students more sensitive to nuances in expression.
Overuse of technology can also affect a child’s own mood. A report from the United Kingdom revealed that children who use computer games and their home Internet for more than four hours do not have the same sense of wellbeing as those who used that technology for less than an hour. One expert explained that with less physical contact, children might have difficulty developing social skills and emotional reactions.
Negative #3: Technology Can Put Privacy and Safety at Risk
Improper use of technology can expose a child to numerous risks. Children who use technology may unwittingly share information that can put them in danger. In 82% of online sex crimes against children, the sex offenders used social networking sites to obtain information about the victim’s preferences. And the anonymity of technology can also make it easier for people to bully others online. A quarter of teenagers say they have been bullied either by text or on the Internet. Sexting is another high-risk behaviour of concern, with 24% of teenagers aged 14 -17 having participated in some sort of nude sexting.
Negative #4: More Use of Technology with Less Physical Activity Leads to Obesity
Childhood obesity is on the rise, and technology may be to blame. Paediatricians also say that severe obesity is increasing among young people. Although one traditional focus is on the amount and type of foods children eat, one study says that obesity is on the rise, not just because of food, but because as we use more technology, we exercise less and are more sedentary. With technology that includes cars, television, computers and mobile devices, the amount of time we spend sedentary increased and our time in physical activity dropped.
Addressing the Negatives of Technology
I am certainly not advocating cutting out all technology, but, as with most things, moderation is best. Teachers and parents who want their students and children to experience the benefits of technology – without the negatives – might consider these ideas.
- Monitor the use of technology.
Whether you are a parent, teacher, or both, make sure you know how your children are using technology. Many classroom computers have restrictions on which sites can be used. Royal School computers do have filters and the search history on all computers is regularly checked to know what our students are doing. For parents, some mobile phone plans offer family-friendly options that let parents restrict calls or texts during parent-established times.
- Teach responsible usage.
I am not suggesting ignoring what technology can offer. Instead, talk with children about establishing their Internet footprint, and the long-range consequences of putting inappropriate information into cyberspace – once it is there it is almost impossible to erase. Encourage children to discuss tricky situations they may encounter online and help them work to a positive resolution.
- Be familiar with technology.
Keep up with what children are into. Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google+, Pintrest and Flikr are just a few and there are many more out there. But stay current so you can recognise and head off any problems early on.
- Use classroom technology intentionally.
It’s easy to allow technology (i.e. videos, movies) to take precedence in a family situation. Be sure to use these tools to augment – not substitute – your child’s learning.
- Offer alternatives to technology.
Give your child an assignment that requires reading a hard copy of a material. Task them with talking, instead of texting questions. Spend time outside, whenever possible, where you can sit and discuss a topic without the usual distractions.
Technology makes our lives easier. Today’s pre-teens and teens have tremendous opportunities to learn and to connect by using it. But with each advantage comes a potential cost. When we understand those costs and can minimise them, we can keep the use of technology positive.
Please feel free to contact me or the school should you have any questions about this or any of the other articles published to date.