The obvious answer to that question is yes. Of course, technology would be beneficial in our classrooms. We use it every day, why wouldn’t we incorporate it into the classroom? Do the benefits of technology, however, outweigh the disadvantages?
There are many ways technology can be incorporated into the classroom to enhance students learning. The problem is how it is incorporated. Many students think of SMART Boards or PowerPoint when asked what kind of technology was used in their classroom. This type of integration does not enhance learning all that much. A SMART Board, for one, is a glorified chalk/whiteboard/projector. In the long run, it does little to increase learning in students when the exact same thing can be, and has been, done using a chalkboard or an overhead. Many students don’t have other experiences with technology outside of this universal experience.
A great example of incorporation is the Speaking Exchange project from CNA. Students from Brazil who are learning English Skype call seniors and they have conversations. This interaction helps students to learn English by speaking to fluent English speakers rather than just learning through lecture.
While the program is amazing, the problem is that it is not utilized more. It has been proven to increase learning, but many schools don’t integrate it, whether it be cost reasons, time constraints, or other factors.
Another example of good integration is an example of a teacher using Google Forms to communicate with her students. Many students felt uncomfortable talking to their teachers or counselors face-to-face, and she recognized that. By using Google Forms, students could express concerns about the class or about their own lives and feel a sense of comfort doing so.
Again, while this is a great idea, how well would it work in other school settings? Taking my school, for example, we were given many surveys throughout the year to give us an opportunity to talk about personal issues or how we felt. Unfortunately, many of us did not take it seriously because we thought that our issues would not be addressed by teachers–we thought of the surveys as teachers wanting to know information about us, but then do nothing with that information. As a result, we didn’t open up. Not only that, but those surveys were anonymous and online. We didn’t have to worry about expressing how we felt in the school because no one would know it was us, but even then we still chose not to do it properly. Even the use of technology didn’t make us more comfortable.
A big concern regarding technology in the classroom is budgets. Having the technology integrated into the classroom is not cheap, especially considering how much upkeep is involved in technology. As Matthew Lynch states in his article, “The Dark Side of Technology,” after classrooms get a hold of the tablets or iPads needed, how long until they need to be upgraded to the new model? Also, many technology companies don’t have schools in mind when they are making their products. Remember when Apple admitted that they slow down older models of their phones to protect the battery? How many other technology companies are using this strategy? And how many other products is Apple purposefully slowing down? These can have huge cost-effects for classrooms. If it’s cheaper to buy textbooks for the class that can last many more years, of course schools are going to choose that option because it’s cheaper.
Julia Klaus says that technology can take away from learning in her article. Because many students associate technology with gaming and fun, they aren’t actually learning. I know this to be true. If my class was able to use laptops for class, most of us were playing games or on social media. And while students do become more engaged in learning when technology is used, a study by the Department of Education concluded that “incorporating multimedia such as videos or online quizzes, did not appear to influence the amount of learning which takes place in the classroom.”
I think the most important argument for why technology may not be as beneficial in the classroom than we think is this: “Computers cannot substitute for hands-on experience with art supplies, science equipment or musical instruments.” While I do believe that technology can be highly useful for learning, it has more negatives because of the way teachers integrate it in the classroom and how much it costs.