As I was sitting in my room one night reading through articles on technology and its effect on education, a single idea sparked my interest in the topic: how students in my generation were being seen as negatively affected in the academic sphere by the advent of the iPhone, iPads, and constant television streaming. This idea got me thinking about my own life and use of technology both inside and outside the walls of my high school. It is hard for me to imagine a life without my devices, but the concerns by teachers across America are almost impossible to ignore. In today’s society, technology is a huge part of the lives of the current generation of high school students and will be even more ingrained in the lives of younger generations. The use of technology in schools will not slow down in the future, it will only grow more rapidly each year. Technology in education has caused students to lose focus in the classroom and become less analytical problem-solvers in regards to critical thinking questions. Clearly, the use of technological devices in the niche of education hampers the learning ability of students in the classroom.
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Initially, technology use in educational settings impedes students’ focus on scholastic tasks. Obviously, students do not always regard school as entertaining. Historically, students that were uninterested in a subject or lesson would often not have a way to escape from listening to the teacher; however, in today’s culture, students can turn to a tiny, pocket-sized treasure chest of games on their cell phone when they get bored in class. As technological advances have evolved, cell phones have made it easier and more accessible for students to become distracted from learning. Writer for the New York Times, Matt Richtel, in his article for the Times, “Technology Changing How Students Learn, Teachers Say”, published in the New York Times on November 1, 2012, addresses the topic of technology in education and argues that students have minimized the ability to focus on schoolwork since the technological boom. He supports this claim by examining one large-scale survey conducted by the Pew Internet Project, a branch of the Pew Research group, then analyzing another large-scale survey conducted by Vicky Rideout of Common Sense Media, a non-profit, San Francisco-based organization which counsels parents on childhood media use, and finally he uses interviews from teachers who spend time daily observing students in their classrooms. Richtel’s purpose is to show that students of the current generation have shifted dramatically in their approaches to learning and how the impact of technology has made it more difficult for students to keep attention on their responsibilities in school in order to help educators and parents rethink the amount of use of technology their student should be allowed to use. From the article, Richtel claims that, “There is a widespread belief among teachers that students’ constant use of digital technology is hampering their attention spans,” and this quote is spot-on in the culture of our society. In Richtel’s quote, he illuminates how teachers, the people spending almost eight hours a day with students, have been seeing a noticeable decline in their students’ ability to focus on specific tasks in academia. If teachers, given their extensive time spent with students, have all had a similar experience with students’ waning attention spans, it is hard to discount that evidence against students. Evidently, teachers have been noticing as obvious degeneration in students’ ability to focus since the introduction of technological devices in student possession.
Likewise, in the New York Times article, “Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction” (2010), author Matt Richtel, writer for the New York Times, asserts that the attention spans of contemporary students has diminished and suggests that technology is to blame for the decline. He backs up this claim by doing the following: first, he begins the article as the story of seventeen-year-old Vishal, a once bright and attentive student who’s grades have plummeted since he discovered technology in seventh grade, next, he uses research done by a Duke University professor and The Kaiser Family Foundation to supplement his thesis, last, he includes more stories of students and how they feel their use of technology has impacted their academic life. In this article, Richtel states, that “Several recent studies show that young people tend to use home computers for entertainment, not learning, and that this can hurt school performance, particularly in low-income families.” This quote is significant because, Richtel explains how studies that have been done in the recent past have supported the thesis of home computers being used by students for purposes other than those that are educational. For example, students at home may use their computers for social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram or video streaming sites like YouTube instead of using the computer to play learning-centered games, read e-books, or work on homework. Furthermore, students are also apt to spend more time on these non-educational sites than on sites which could help them study for quizzes and tests or further their knowledge on subjects that they are not strong in and thus, hindering academic performance. It is well-defined that it is tremendously easy for students to lose focus on academic subjects while distracted by technology.
Additionally, technology in education has also been shown to lessen the amount of critical thinking done by students in complex problems. Matt Richtel also discusses the topic of reduced problem-solving skills in his article “Technology Changing How Students Learn, Teachers Say”. In this article, Richtel states, “Lisa Baldwin, 48, a high school teacher in Great Barrington, Mass., [who] said students’ ability to focus and fight through academic challenges was suffering an ‘exponential decline’.” He goes on further to say that, “She said she was the decline most sharply in students whose parents allowed unfettered access to television, phones, iPads and video games.” Clearly, teachers have taken notice of the decline of students’ critical thinking skills in recent years. Whether it be in math, science, English, or any other subject, there will always be challenges to students that they may not be necessarily confident on how to solve the anticipated problem. As technology advances, students will be more enabled to use the internet to find the answers to such complicated problems instead of learning how to work through them, which will in turn, cause them to slowly lose the critical thinking skills necessary to adulthood. As in the quote from Ms. Baldwin, the “academic challenges” that are proposed to students will not just go away with the evolution of technology, and students will have to become more skilled problem-solvers than they currently are in order to succeed academically. The importance of preserving problem-solving skills in future generations is unimaginable, and it is recognizably a problem that many teachers, including Ms. Baldwin, are experiencing.
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Moreover, the ability of students to solve multifaceted problems has also been recognized by students to be a clear issue in education due to the use of technology. Matt Richtel also discusses the topic of the weakening ability of students to solve complex problems in his article “Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction”. In his article, Richtel observes the class of teacher Marcia Blondel, an expert teacher, who has been forced to resort to reading aloud in a senior English class because students have lacked the ability to read the assigned passages at home. Ms. Blondel states, “You can’t become a good writer by watching YouTube, texting and e-mailing a bunch of abbreviations.” This quote shows how teachers like Ms. Blondel are particularly alert to the fact that student learning capacities have taken a considerable shift from students being proactive to barely reading an assigned group of pages in a senior English class. It is more than understandable for an elementary-level English class to verbally read passages in class to bolster comprehension, but in a high school-level class, verbal reading is almost non-existent. The claim made by Ms. Blondel is not uncommon, technology has taken over aspects of students’ lives that were once filled by semi-meaningful actions. Discernibly, the use of technology has significantly hampered students’ ability to solve intricate problems.
Conclusively, technology in education has huge implications on student achievement. The use of digital devices in educational settings has impeded on this culture’s students’ ability to focus and maintain attention in the classroom, as well as technology diminishing the ability of students to solve complex mental problems presented in classroom situations. Clearly, the use of technology in education has had a negative impact on today’s society’s students in the areas of focus and problem-solving. This thesis is bad for our culture because unless a restriction is placed on technology use by students, the dependency on technology will only grow and the problems proposed in the thesis will only become exacerbated by future generations of students. As thousands of students enter the school system each scholastic year, it is necessary to understand the true impact that iPhones, iPads, television, and video games have on developing minds. It is up to educators and parents to change this growing trend.
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