Tech and teaching – does it really work?

Back in the 1980s, the old BBC micro was a feature in just about every school and, since that time, schools (and universities) have not only increased the quantity and quality of technical equipment to which their students have access, but also increased the extent to which it is used in lessons.

Despite the threats imagined in the past, teachers may not be in danger of being replaced by unattended terminals, but they are certainly being supplemented by computer-based learning. Is this, however, a real benefit or just a cost-saving measure?

From textbooks to tablets

You could make a very strong case for arguing that the move towards technology-based teaching is just a modern interpretation of the age-old practice of teachers having students work from textbooks in a largely, self-directed manner with the teacher just assisting those students who required help as and when they required it. The only real difference is that the internet allows students to have immediate access to far more resources than any book could ever hold.

Is this a benefit, though, or is it overwhelming to students who struggle to put their finger on the precise piece of information they are searching for in the midst of the vast web?

The case in favour of technology in classrooms

No school could ever, realistically, be expected to contain all the resources they would need to answer any question any student might have during the course of a lesson and this is particularly true of topics which have a problem-solving element to them. Students can find answers online that teachers wouldn’t have dreamed of preparing for.

Making classrooms and lecture theatres accessible to disabled students is also an important factor in favour of making liberal use of technology in classrooms. Dyslexic students and those who struggle to write or process information can often benefit from having a laptop or tablet in front of them rather than a pad of paper and a pen. Removing those tools can even be considered to be discriminatory.

The case against technology in classrooms

Schools have to balance providing a breadth of knowledge with providing a depth of knowledge and this is generally achieved by having students start out as generalists and then move into a more in-depth study of a narrower range of topics.

Even at the general level, however, there needs to be some degree of focus and the wonders of technology could enable students to lose track of where they actually need to be in order to move forward with their education or feel overwhelmed by everything they may think is being asked of them.

Some educators also fear that, with typing and inputting data into computers being taught from a young age, children may lose the ability to handwrite effectively and could struggle with it well into adulthood.

In short

As is often the case in life, the issue of technology in classrooms could probably be best summarised by the phrase “everything in moderation” and, in this case, with appropriate supervision.

While the move from textbooks to tablets will present challenges, schools are, essentially, supposed to be a preparation for the adult world and in the adult world, there are fewer and fewer jobs that can be performed without the use of technology.

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