Technology in the Classroom: School in a Tech Heavy World
There is no doubt that technology has changed education. There is a real need for children to learn how to use responsibly the various tech tools that will become part of their daily lives. Yet, many parents wonder if the reliance on technology in education is leading to a decline in better academic pursuits.
Schools like Jackson Academy have embraced the idea of technology in the classroom to the level that they are honored as an Apple Distinguished School. Academic Counselor, Lisa Lucas, explained that when their school was implementing their current systems, the teachers went through significant training to make sure they were well versed in how to use the devices as well as what the devices were capable of doing for the students. She says that when she was teaching Social Studies, having immediate access to the Internet in the classroom allowed her students to “look up places, monuments, etc and find more information in a few minutes than they ever could reading encyclopedias or textbooks.” It wasn’t long before she realized an unexpected benefit – the enhancement of creativity for all students. “Instead of making a poster for a school project, they could now make keynote presentations that looked very professional. This instilled a lot of confidence, especially for those who did not naturally feel they are creative. It kind of leveled the playing field.”
One of the challenges, though, with a tech-heavy school is getting the parents on board with the online education and grade reporting processes. Even if a parent is comfortable with the online world, having access to the Internet is not a given. Alisha Galey is a 4th grade Math and Science teacher at Pisgah Elementary. While her students do have limited access to computers and other devices, she says a significant issue is “the lack of internet access at home. So many students in rural areas don’t have cell phone service at their house, much less Internet access. We have a very hard time getting parents involved electronically.” And, parental involvement is crucial to student success. So, if a tech-controlled education is to be successful, the parents must be able to participate.
St. Augustine Third Grade teacher, Kristen Meyer, shared an article about a study done by Mueller (Princeton University) and Oppenheimer (UCLA). The study showed generally that at the college level, longhand note taking was superior to laptop note taking, in most of the tested scenarios. But what was most interesting was that those students who took longhand notes scored significantly higher at a conceptual level. In other words, they had a better understanding of the ideas presented in lectures. They could compare and contrast their information because they had first digested what was said and interpreted it before they wrote down the key points. This process of “narration”, a learning tool highly valued by teachers like 19th century British educator Charlotte Mason, is instinctively used when listening to lectures with only a pen and notebook on a desk.
Oddly enough, tech giants like Steve Jobs and Evan Williams (a founder of Blogger and Twitter) are (were) very low-tech parents, and the chosen schools for their kids are also low-tech environments, especially in the elementary years. Physical books replace iPads, bedrooms are digital free zones, and screen time is often reserved only for weekends, until the high school years when computer use becomes a necessity. A recent study in Pediatric Child Health is one of many studies that reports children younger than 10 seem to be the most susceptible to becoming addicted to gadgets and screens, which is why using them in an educational environment, when other methods are tried and true, is always a subject for debate.
As with most things in life, moderation and common sense is crucial in these decisions. Students need to learn to utilize the computer as the great tool that it is, while still being able to read, internalize and adequately discuss literature, history and current events. Just as parents are learning how to navigate parenting in a social media world, educators are learning to navigate education in a tech heavy world. Always asking “why are we doing it this way” can be an important step to giving our kids the best learning environment possible.
Leah O’Gwynn Kackley is a homeschooling mom of three in the Reservoir/Fannin area. She finds the balancing act between traditional and technology enriched education to be just as challenging as teachers in traditional schools!