To be up front and honest with you, there is no way around technology when it comes to education nowadays. Most universities run on an internal network and platform to post class assignments, get the syllabus or other relevant information and course material. So going to college without a computer is nearly impossible these days. And computers are not cheap either. I was unfortunate enough to have my old MacBook break down on me, so I was obligated to go buy a new laptop or MacBook. While I did research online, I decided to stay with a MacBook Pro as I was used to it and loved it. But the price tage was just outrageous. I was able to apply my student discount, but it was still a steep price for a piece of technology that is so needed to do basic tasks these days.
I remember that the first portable piece of technology I had was a Nokia 3310, a phone that was unbreakable and a mainstream accessory when I was young. Sometimes I think back how fast we went from the Nokia 3310 to the IPhone 6 Plus with all its attributes, technology, innovations, etc. Smartphones, tablets, laptops, and other devices are part of our daily life and we are so interconnected that we often forget that there is a life without technology. But I am drifting away from the main purpose of this post: the use of technology in education.
I cannot speak much from personal experience as I only had a laptop for the last years of high school but never needed to submit or hand in printed copies. So my main use was for leisure, and my high school did not require any technology in order to be part of the class room. The only time we had a course in information systems was when we were introduced to Microsoft Word, Office, and PowerPoint. But for the rest it was still the classic pen and paper.
For today’s youth, I have a different perspective on how education should work. Most kids go to school and already possess valuable items of technology. Most of them have an IPhone and access to a laptop or high speed internet. The classic way of education is over, especially with teachers and instructors getting younger and being more tech savvy than the older generations. With this switch of leadership in the educational system also comes a switch in the teaching methods. In order to find a job today, excellent computer skills are often required. Therefore I see it personally as essential for teenagers and students to learn how to use computers properly, how to use programs, and how to effectively implement technology into their school curriculum and life.
This is not an incentive for permanent use of smartphones or tablets, but rather an efficient way of teaching and learning. As the skills are all required no matter what it is important to transmit the technological skills as soon as possible. Students need to get used to the use of programs and devices, embrace them, and learn more and more. It is not only a footstep into the future college and university life, but also into the professional career.
While books, pen, and paper are still part of the education system, technology made it easier to get a hand on a digital copy. Some books are edited bi-yearly and have to be reprinted in order to stay up to date. The enormous use of paper and ink then are contra-productive towards our environmental efforts. It is way easier to update a digital copy and to make it available to children and students. Instead of making them buy expensive books that rapidly lose value, we could make an investment towards technological devices and embrace the change in the best way possible.
Karen Cator, director of the Office of Educational Technology said in a recent interview that “going forward, interactions will be key. Just as people engage in online interactions—around virtual sports teams, cooking, or whatever—students will be able to engage in participatory learning experiences online in and out of the classroom.” She continues by sating that right now we are still in a traditional phase of class room interaction, but “As we transition to a digital learning environment and each learner has his or her own device, we will be able to facilitate personalization, participation, interaction, and collaboration—with people who might be right there in the classroom or people who might be across the world.” During the whole interview with Educational Leadership, Karen Cator demonstrated why it is important to move into a more technological era of education, and that we have a social responsible to make technological devices available for everybody.
There are also downsides to technological advances in education and in children’s lives. In an article, Damon Verial saw some negatives in the excessive use of technology among teens. Many children these days use technological devices outside of school, and they already bring numerous risks to surface. A clear risk for Damon Verial is the huge amount of predators that roam in online forum and see the younger crowd as easy targets. Although the outside use of technological devices is already high, introducing it to schools makes the demographic even younger and increases the risk of predators.
Shannon Chrismore wrote in her book Internet Addiction: A Handbook and Guide to Evaluation and Treatment that there is a link between technology addiction and depression and anxiety. She elaborates that the more teenagers use technology, the less social relationships they build and hence feel awkward outside of their safe bubble: Cyberspaces. Other issues with increased use of technology is the high risk of getting addicted to it, especially when kids start to use technological devices at a young age. A fourth issue Damon Verial mentions is the risk-taking aspect of technological devices. Many teenagers are more exposed to new temptations, and might find it easier to get a hand on alcohol or drugs. This phenomenon probably already exists with the excessive use of social media and other platforms outside the classroom, and some might fear the risk will increase with even more exposure to technology.
To sum up, I believe that there is always some good and some bad in technology. The more we use it, the more familiar we will get with it for our future life. Knowing how to use a computer or smartphone is a minimum skill to even being considered for a job these days, and the earlier we learn it, the more savvy and comfortable we get with it. Added to this the Internet offers tremendous amounts of information, information that can never be covered in books. If children in school reach a point where they don’t know the answer, the Internet allows them to do further research and broaden their knowledge into new areas of interest. Personally, I think that there has to be a balance between learning social interactions and building in-person friendships, and the use of technological devices for education or free time. We need to know how to interact with people in real life and online, and we need to know how to use the Internet and technology to learn more.