Are We Teaching Kids To Be Too Dependent on Technology?

October 4th, 2012 11 Comments Other

Kids & 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?


Julie DeNeen has her bachelor's degree in Clinical Psychology from the University of New Haven. She spent several years working for a local Connecticut school at the district level, implementing new technologies to help students and teachers in the classroom. She also taught workshops to teachers about the importance of digital student management software, designed to keep students, parents, and teachers connected to the learning process.

You can find out more about her @jdeneen4 and Google+.

11 Responses

  1. […] Note: If you're worried about teaching students to be too dependent on technology, check out this post of […]

  2. Taz Pacheco says:

    Where are you getting this information? The only schools that could have any of this stuff would be private schools. no public school has any of this stuff; kids still write with regular pen, pencils, and handouts. In fact, most school in the country are complaining about the amount of handouts the teachers are giving them, and not teaching them correctly. A lot of schools just have a few computer labs to teach the students how to use certain functions. Schools still have libraries that students go to regularly and read books not ebooks. Chalk boards and white boards are still used in all schools; including those at the college level.

    • Haru says:

      I am 13 and I am reading this article at school, on a school computer. I go to a public school. probably 70% of my homework is typed.

  3. recryp says:

    hello. i am 14 yrs old and i also agree that people are becoming too dependant on technology.

    • LexKing says:

      Im 16 and a junior. I live in the bethel school district. Both private and public schools hand out IPads to there students. We turn in Majority of our work online. Plus we learn our lessons off of a app called canvas, and have to check our grades on a app called skyward. There are multiple different alternatives to using technology in other districts. Like school computers have always been there.
      We are required to have our essays and wrighting prompts typed up in English. In science, we are expected to type our labs up, and additional work. In math we do use pencils and paper, but we have to look up or worksheets and homework on canvas ourselfs. In elective classes we also use these iPads to learn our lessons, and some teachers do provide paper work also.
      Sowmtimes we even use textbooks and our iPads to complete our work.
      I feel more organized when having an iPad in school, due to the fact my grades have even showin a difference, including my IQ.

  4. Amber says:

    I am a student finishing my Bachelors degree in Educational Studies. This site came up from a search I did on connections between technology and pedagogy. My entire bachelor’s degree has been done virtually through my online university program. The search that brought me to this site is for my 25+ page thesis on problems in the American education system. My thesis has been written on my computer, researched on both my laptop and tablet, and I have utilized Google to research some of my sources, including buying the paperback versions of books I used online from Amazon and Delivery of my assignments came through videos online and web chats with instructors. Submitting my assignments, testing conducted through proctoring, as well as reading of some of my required texts, were all done through technology. What I have learned is that technology is simply a tool to deliver information in a variety of ways, making it less or more easily understood by different style learners. In the hands of a properly-trained teacher who knows good methodology in teaching all kinds of students, it can be a wonderful tool to excite, inspire, and motivate the students to learn more efficiently, but it should not be used in replace of the instructor because skill is not something technology can take the place of in quality instruction. Thank you for an interesting read. 🙂

  5. Teacher says:

    I teach high school and I do not agree with the majority of this article, and I think it is even a bit insulting to teachers at some points. First, yes, schools are behind in terms of technology, and the author even touched on the fact that advances in technology are far outpacing school funding. I agree that money is holding us back, but what the author fails to acknowledge is that teachers do an amazing job at modifying the resources they have on hand to create differentiated instruction. Additionally, the author implied that schools are able to regularly invest in “resource-heavy curriculum materials” as opposed to investing in tech. devices. H-O-N-E-Y, we don’t have the money to invest in ANYTHING new. We are lucky to have enough paper to make copies of a activity we cut and pasted together from a workbook we found buried in the workroom from like, 2005.

    Let’s say we are really fancy, and our school is able to buy a few class sets of chromebooks. AWESOME! But decent quality software and programs are never free. Granted, most teachers I know are more than willing to spend their own money on engaging materials for their students, but most of these cool educational programs require you to buy a subscription for the entire school. (I am coming from a science classroom, and I am referring to things like virtual labs, webquests, and simulations).

    Let’s just pretend, for a moment, that you live in a nice area and the school has more funding. In this case the author is giving waaayyy too much credit to the students. She argues that using electronic devices do not create lazy students if done correctly. This implies that it is the teacher’s poor planning/lack of creativity that enables students to become lazy. WRONG. My classes all have over 30 teenage students in them. They know the electronics much better than me. They are not self motivated, and molecular biology means nothing to them. YOU. KNOW. THEY. WILL. GOOGLE. THE. ANSWER. KEY!!! Technology could be effective if the goal was to learn, but unfortunately, with all the standardized testing, the goal of school is getting a good grade. They aren’t motivated to learn, they are motivated to make a good grade. How they “earn” that grade doesn’t matter to them.

    I know… “but Ms. Teacher, you should be monitoring your students while they work!” Let me just remind you, OVER 30 STUDENTS. I can’t possibly see everyone at once.

    I know… “but Ms. Teacher, you should constantly be scanning the room, back and forth!” So earlier we talked about how students are better at technology than teachers. They have sneaky ways of cheating. They will wait or write out long, irrelevant sentences until the teacher isn’t looking, then look up the answer really quickly. Also, constantly scanning would require me to ignore students asking for help.

    I know…”They copied answers from online! Give them a 0!” In case you weren’t aware of the education system in the states, we typically aren’t allowed to fail people over bad behavior.

    Last thing. The “silly questions” about losing technology are not all that silly. Here’s the thing, if we lose ebooks, of course the students will not lose their ability to read. BUUUUTTTT the school will typically get rid of the old resources to help pay for the new stuff. For example my school sold every single biology book we had to help pay for an online eBook subscription. AWESOME, yes? Well, it was really hard to use the eText when the entire science department shared 2 class sets of chromebooks. SOOO no. It was not awesome. We didn’t have traditional textbooks to accomodate for the lack of technology. Also, a students ability to write is not the concern when a computer breaks or shuts off. IF we did the majority of our work on computers, and that computer breaks… BYE BYE WORK! How insulting to assume teachers think so little of their students. The authors portrays students as this exemplary group of children and/or adolescents, and creates a narrative where the teachers are borderline incompetent. For example, technology won’t create laziness if the teacher does it correctly, or referring to our concerns to integrate technology as “silly.”

    The author claims to have worked at the district level and has also spoken at several workshops, but has she ever taught her own class? She may have observed other classrooms, but every teacher knows that students put on an act when an evaluator walks in. Until you teach for yourself, you have no way of knowing what the issues really are in the classroom. The author made a lot of bold assumptions and there is a lack of evidence to support these claims.

  6. student says:

    I agree. I am in middle school and I don’t own any device of my own. My parents tell me to use the encyclopedias when I want to know the answer. No wonder I’m getting straight As.?

  7. Emma Newman says:

    I am a senior in high school, and I am currently writing this off of my school provided chromebook. All of the work that we do in almost all of my classes, including math, is done on this computer. In my school district, kids are given chromebooks as early as kindergarten and learn curriculum that way. It has been helpful mostly, but since my school relies on technology, it is a hassle when a computer stops working or even if you forget your charger that day. If your computer isn’t working or the wifi is down, class does not go on. This is how it is in all of the school districts that i know of. Teachers no longer have to teach, and as a student who had to adjust to this way of learning only last year, it is a struggle every day and I would much rather do my work on paper.

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