Is technology always bad in education?
At the start of November, we discussed whether we were “breeding a nation of couch potatoes”. Recent articles in the press suggest the technology that keeps our kids indoors could actually be contributing towards the greater good in our education system. So is technology in education a force for good or bad?
Poor reading standards in white, working class boys has always been baffling to teachers in UK schools. A recent study has revealed that technology is actually beginning to promote better performance amongst three to five-year-old boys though. The integration of tablets within schools, along with other touch-screen devices, has shown that twice the amount of children read online stories longer than they would a traditional book.
Touch-screen technology is proving great for reading standards, but it can also support and nurture integral social skills. Last year, David Andrews, a Year 6 teacher, wrote to the Guardian newspaper to share his investigation on “how mobile technology can be used across the curriculum to enhance the teaching and learning in the classroom.” The process included a child-centred learning approach, giving pupils the opportunity to build a controllable vehicle with just one tablet per group of four. This allowed each group to learn and progress at their own pace in maths and science-based activities whilst learning to work together effectively. Interestingly though, the written aspect of the project far exceeded the expectations of Mr Andrews, suggesting enthusiasm for the project actually improved literacy.
One of the most ambitious developments this year is the introduction of coding in classrooms. The UK has been a guinea pig for this initiative, providing basic coding knowledge to children as young as five – much to the dismay of parents who feel intimidated by the idea of “debugging” or “Boolean logic”. So, why is this a good thing? There is a huge skills gap in the job market at the moment. Technology companies are increasing year on year, but there aren’t enough people to fill the posts that are created by this increase. Teaching coding in the UK will allow the next generation to fill that gap.
Anybody growing up in the 70s will remember the immense joy of playing outside at lunchtimes or after school. Nowadays, children are much more likely to go home and watch TV or play on their tablets. So, isn’t it important for kids to have a break from their computer screens once in a while?
Dr Aric Sigman suggests that the habit of watching “screen media” could lead to addiction or depression. Exercise naturally releases endorphins in the brain, so a child’s dependency on this “screen media” could actually be depriving them of the “happy hormone” they need to enjoy learning.
Jordy Kaufman, director of the BabyLab, noted that “there is a school of thought that tablet use is rewiring children’s brains, so to speak, to make it difficult for them to attend to slower-paced information”.
All of this links in to the “Snapchat generation” that we currently find ourselves in, where young people are digesting very small amounts of information in short bites, rather than investing time to take in meatier chunks of information. A laptop-distribution program in Costa Rican schools resulted in considerably worse math grades. In other cases, technology-led education had no effect at all.
The “not-so-ugly” after all?
Technology in education is here to stay whether we like it or not. Perhaps some of the negativity comes from some teachers’ tendency to reject certain rapid technological advances, along with a non-intuitive approach to new devices and a lack of funding for training and equipment. There are pros and cons for technology in education, but only time will tell whether its growth will be for the greater good.