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As the modern world progresses and innovations in technology continue to expand, new challenges arise concerning the integration of these innovations into schools. Justin Banitt and his associates state that “in today’s 21st-century classroom, teaching and learning must look different than even 10 years ago. Current digital native students demand new styles of teaching and engagement, and through innovative technology integration teachers can meet these demands”. With the style of learning changing with each generation, policymakers as well as parents and educators are concerned with the potential outcomes of increased integration of technology and schools. However, educational technology is a failed enterprise leaving some in the dark about it consequences.
Technology in the classroom is serving as a distraction instead of an effective tool for students to learn. Handheld devices such as cell phones, tablets, and iPods serve as major disruptions in the learning process both inside and outside of the classroom. Harvard University states that “in one survey at six different universities, college students reported using their phones an average of 11 times per day in class. In another study, 92% of college students reported using their phones to send text messages during class”. An overwhelming majority of students reported they are utilizing their cellphones to send texts during class, demonstrating the true ineffectiveness of electronics in the classroom. In an article concerning the rise of distraction in the classroom, Leslie Reed states, “It’s not just a quick glance to see if someone’s trying to reach them. Students in the study estimated that, on average, they spent 20 percent of their classroom time using digital devices for activities unrelated to class – mostly text messaging but also e-mailing, web-surfing, checking social media, and even playing games”. Students are spending an increasing amount of time logging in to their technology to check the latest news or respond to texts instead of tuning in to the lecture. As a result, students are losing valuable class time along with decreasing their comprehension of the lesson. Furthermore, students often believe they can multitask between their smartphones and educational activities. However, true multitasking is believed to be a myth. Our brains focus on one thing by simultaneously shutting out the other and students who are constantly multitasking are receiving lower grades (Kolodner and Tugend “Dealing With”). If our brains are only focused on one thing at a time, the time that is spent on cell phones or other electronic devices is interrupting the brain’s ability to focus on the lecture or educator. Therefore, concentrating on an educator’s instructions or lessons is becoming a thing of the past as students continue to put their usage of smartphones and other technology ahead of their educational experience.
Not only is new technology offering distraction, but is limiting vital student-teacher interaction. In order to have a more successful learning environment, the interaction between the student and the educator is critical. During a classroom observation project, it was found that “lessons, where students have multiple opportunities to communicate with the teacher, are essential for the effective construction of student knowledge. By welcoming curiosity and encouraging students to raise their own questions about the content or claims being discussed, the instructor can guide students to develop habits of mind for framing and answering questions” (“Student-Teacher Interaction”). The opportunities to interact and communicate with the educator further engage the student in to the lesson. Furthermore, it provides a guiding hand to a better understanding, whereas a computer program forces the student to come to a conclusion on their own. In addition, online courses, as well as online learning tools, decrease the amount of communication and interaction that occurs in a learning environment. In an article written by Hani Morgan, it states, “Interacting with a teacher only through a computer or technological device limits communication modes that are crucial in the teaching and learning process”. The lack of connection between an educator and a student often leads to a decrease in the overall understanding of the material and the effectiveness of the learning process. We as humans communicate through body language such as facial expressions, gestures, posture, and eye movement. This communication, which occurs between an educator, a student, and their peers contributes to a healthy learning environment of personal interaction and collaboration. However, the addition of technology into the learning environment inevitably decreases vital student-teacher interaction.
Technology does not just present an absence of interaction, it leaves some students who do not have access to the internet behind. Not every child in a school system has the ability to have access to the internet once they leave school property. According to the article, “The Dark Side of Educational Technology,” it states, “Of the elementary through high school students surveyed, 97 percent of white students and 93 percent of Asian students have access to the Internet – but only 74 percent of African-American students and 79 percent of Hispanic students have access. Similarly, only 78 percent of low-income students have access to the Internet, compared with 98 percent of students that did not fall into the low-income category”. When equal access to the internet or technology at home does not present itself, it becomes more difficult for students to complete their work at home. The twenty percent difference between low-income students and other students who have access is a considerable gap between students who are able to successfully complete their work or other activities at home. As the usage of educational schools continues to advance, it is falling into the hands of the wealthy. Data is already displaying the widening achievement gap between poor and rich students in certain areas. Therefore, it is unfair for those students, even educators, who do not have access to technology or the internet at home to entirely teach with technology or require students to complete their work online. Alternatives and lessening the use of technology can significantly improve education for those students and educators who will get left behind as educational technology continues to advance.
Others believe the usage of technology in the classroom is an innovative way to aid in children’s learning more efficiently. However, technology offers major distractions for students making it difficult for them to concentrate on the lesson at hand. In an article, Kristen Frohlich states, “most of the students have laptops on their desks that appear to be there for the use of taking notes. Still, more than half of them seem like they’re not paying attention to what’s going on in class. Students using their laptops during classroom lectures can be spotted playing computer games, shopping online, browsing through social media, working on assignments for other classes or doing various other activities not relevant to the class”. Even when students seem as if they are using their computers, cell phones, or tablets for educational purposes, they can still be distracted by other activities not related to the task. Without the ability of educators to be in constant control over the websites their students are visiting, it becomes increasingly difficult for students to not be distracted while using their technology.
The lack of availability is not the only problem, schools are using a vast amount of funding for technology upgrades. A vast amount of school funding is utilized to support the integration of educational technology in schools, while some schools are even going into debt to afford the newest technology. It is estimated that schools in the United States spend about fifty-six billion dollars on educational technology, with thirty-six percent being spent in K-12 education. Fifty-six billion dollars is an abundant amount of money to spend on technology for classrooms, especially when there are areas in certain schools lacking sufficient funding. In an article concerning funding for technology, Amadou Diallo states, “Baker says these short-term bonds ‘violate the premise of bond debt: that the taxpaying public is investing in an asset of some value. If these districts start tacking on incremental increases to their tax rates for the ongoing costs of short-lived computers, it significantly reduces their ability to go back to the voters for bigger stuff they may need later on, like construction or a new roof’”. Schools and administrators lose the ability to come up with the funding for more serious problems, such as a new roof or new desks, when they increase tax rates to compensate for the cost of new technology. Administrations are becoming more concerned with the need for the newest technology than they with being prepared for future issues that are far more significant.
In conclusion, educational technology is a failure to the school systems as they try to implement it the correct way. Students are struggling to concentrate as their devices serve as a distraction during class time as they text and browse social media. Furthermore, students are not getting equal opportunities as lower-income families do not have the same access to technology and the internet. Along with the failures of distraction and the lack of equal opportunity, schools are spending a considerable amount of funds on new technology and not putting as much effort into student-teacher interactions. As the integration of technology into our lives and schools continues, we must find a way to “plug in” that does not inhibit the learning process for students.
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