Are We Teaching Kids To Be Too Dependent on Technology?
Edudemic writer Jeff Dunn recently wrote an article about a technology bus that is making headlines at a middle school in Mississippi.
This bus, sponsored by the tech-ed company Promethean, is a vehicle filled with products that enrich the classroom through the latest technology tools, gadgets, and software. While it may be a smart marketing tool for tech companies, is technology bulldozing its way into the classroom?
Traditional Schools Are Way Behind to Begin With
Technological advancements move at lightning speed, with the average device losing its edge over a new and better device after about two years. Businesses and private companies are keeping up, but classrooms are notoriously lagging behind. How many schools still use traditional textbooks? In a world with an explosive e-book market, and offices and hospitals that have gone paperless, why are schools still investing in expensive and resource-heavy curriculum materials?
It may appear that schools are being barraged with new technologies, but where have they been in the last decade? The problem is that institutions that rely on public funding find it much harder to get approval for advancements that may seem to some, a luxury. The mindset that technology is a “fluffy” extra is still pervasive in the older generation of taxpayers who got by without touching a computer.
However, the majority of jobs in the current market require at the very least, a basic understanding of the computer, the Internet, and how to navigate software like Microsoft Word. Like it or not, technology is embedded into the fabric of modern society. Schools do their students a disservice if they do not expose the kids to technology in the classroom.
Technology Does Not Nullify Critical Thinking
Oftentimes, technology gets a bad reputation for giving students shortcuts so they don’t have to think. Let’s look at a math curriculum for example. If a teacher brings in the latest math gadgets and software, will students forget how to do computation longhand (or in their head)? No.
Teachers aren’t replacing lessons with computers that do the thinking for the students. They use the technology to help reinforce the concepts that are being taught. Technology used correctly will not make students lazy, but rather help them master the concepts that are necessary in order to do mental or longhand math.
They are not meant to replace the thinking involved.
But What Happens if Technology is Taken Away?
This is the biggest fear to technology integration in the classroom. Once it’s there, will everything fall apart if it is taken away? The first problem with this fear is that the likelihood of technology disappearing from society is very small.
Nothing short of some traumatic or explosive global human tragedy would wipe the computer and the Web from the planet. In that case, survival would be the focus anyhow. Aside from that, how does even a temporary glitch in technology result in poor learning?
- If e-books are taken out of the classroom, will children no longer know how to read in a traditional text? Of course not!
- If the digital math flash cards on a tablet are unavailable, are students going to be baffled at how to use traditional worksheets and flash cards?
- If the computer breaks, will children not know how to write with a pencil?
These questions may sound silly, but when a person realizes that technology in the classroom is meant to enrich and reinforce skills, rather than replace them, the fear of overdependence starts to dissipate.
Jobs Use Technology
Students who want to be doctors and surgeons will work with computers and robots to perform surgeries. Pilots learn on flight simulators. Bankers use computers all day long. Writers type. HVAC technicians access customer’s units remotely through computers. Even those in who want to go into construction, plumbing, or other trades, will need to know how to set up a website, interact with clients through email and social media, and advertise digitally.
With every new advancement and invention in the last 100 years, there has been resistance. At one point, people feared the radio’s negative influence on culture. Today, this fear would be considered silly and irrational. It is important to look back at history to understand how to deal effectively with advancement in the present.
The technology bus may be a marketing tool for tech-ed companies, but it is also a way for educators to test out new tools that can enhance the classroom. The question is not- are kids becoming too dependent on technology.
The question should be- why is it taking so long for institutions to catch up?