How Much Technology Should We Welcome In Our Schools?
In an age where technology is deeply integrated in society, the question remains whether the education system should adopt a more progressive platform orbiting around technological advances or stick to traditional methods of learning.
The rise of technology in schools has been met with both caution and welcome. Recently, the Telegraph newspaper reported on one school in London, Acorn School, which has banned all technological devices from its premises in an attempt to encourage creativity from pupils (Telegraph, 29 Sep 2015). One of the principal problems associated with education and technology is that children are spending too much time on devices altogether. On the other hand, introducing children to use technology effectively can be seen as practical preparation for a modern workplace, as computer skills are more-or-less essential in the job market.
The use of technology in schools is not without its pitfalls. By addressing some of these potential problems, we might find a balance that benefits children in both their education and future prospects.
The foremost issue is that technology-orbited education can jeopardise other traditional skills. Evidence of this can be seen from the seemingly decreasing emphasis on teaching handwriting. From next year, Finnish schools will be favouring typing over cursive handwriting lessons. While there is no denying that typing has largely replaced writing in the professional sphere, and that the computer skills are essential in the job market, we should not undermine the importance of legible handwriting. Handwriting still serves as a valid form of communication, and is far from outdated. Prescriptions, note-taking, drafting, and even your basic shopping list are all usually handwritten.
Miss Eleri Fletcher, geography teacher in Blackburn, cautions that “children don’t learn the necessary literacy skills through technology… People don’t take you seriously if you can’t spell correctly or use the correct grammar”. Correctional aids, such as Microsoft Word’s ‘Spelling & Grammar’ tool, allow users to correct their literacy mistakes without having to source the error manually. If schools rely on programmes such as Word, children risk ignorance of the basic literacy skills which are indispensable for gaining employment.
Another key issue is that technology can dull classroom creativity. A classroom where each student has their own laptop (or other device) could potentially curb the merits of traditional teaching methods, such as class discussions. Discussions allow cognitive freedom and unrestrictive inquisitiveness; where the key method of teaching is teacher-student interaction, feedback is the main component to successful learning as teachers can actively answer questions and engage fully. By substituting interaction with technology programmes, active feedback and creativity is potentially lost.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) concluded that technology in schools had no profound impact on the quality of education, as reported by the BBC last month (BBC, 15 Sep 2015). In fact, the evidence collected suggested education suffers due to overuse of technology. The focal reason theorised by the study was that computer devices served as a distraction rather than an aid to studies.
With cons must come pros. The advances in technology can elevate excitement and opportunity to any given subject. Technology can inspire students to look at a topic beyond the restraints of traditional learning. Devices can stimulate new ways to teach new concepts. For example, building models from a 3D printer is compatible with scientific topics, as making models would serve as a memorable illustration for things like molecules, sound waves and human body parts. Using technology in innovative ways can avoid it becoming a deterrent.
Technology, then, does have some weight as a valid teaching resource. However, it should be used with caution and does not need to be used in all throughout the curriculum. The main issues with technology in schools are that it could override other- equally important- skills, and threaten communal interaction. Schools need to focus on preserving classroom engagement, perhaps by not allocating technology devices to each individual student but have one device per classroom, as well as maintaining the education of traditional skills.
So, while it is not compulsory to divorce technology and education, it certainly is not necessary to integrate it fully. Technology should be introduced only if it can enhance the topic, not distract from it; if it can engross the room, not disengage it, and most importantly, if it can assist learning, not overshadow it.