EdTech: The Perils and Promises

Education Industries
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By Samreen Shaik

There’s no denying that shortly technology will advance more and it will certainly change the world. Classroom technology is one such outcome, owing to the encouragement of technophile philanthropists like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg. EdTech or Educational Technology is a contemporary practice in classrooms comprising the use of physical hardware, enriched software and educational theoretic to facilitate learning and improving performance by creating, using, and managing appropriate technological processes and resources.Whether we like it or not, technology is everywhere; and for our students to survive in post-secondary education and the business world, they must know technology.

Now the question arises, do we really need classroom technology? When asked on Debate.org, 83% of the people had an affirmative response. For several years education authorities, policymakers, teachers, parents and students alike had been weighing the potential benefits of technology in education against its risks and consequences. But now the debate is more gripping than ever, as forthcoming curricula increasingly incorporate technology and educators experiment with new teaching methods.

Most of the schools have already implemented the increasingly popular practice of providing each student(of 1st to 12th grades) with a digital device such as an iPad or Tab. A recent Gallup report found that 89% of students in the United States (from 3rd to 12th grade) say they use digital learning tools in school at least a few days a week.

Lack of innovation in the education of recent times presents a huge opportunity to EdTech entrepreneurs. As older education reform strategies like school choice and attempts to improve teacher quality have failed to bear fruit, educators have pinned their hopes on the idea that instructional software and online tutorials and games can help narrow the massive test-score gap between students. While technology can do a credible job of imparting education, there’s also the difficulty of using technology to meet the individual needs of students at their cognitive levels. But if the material delivered to students is flawed or inadequate, or presented in an illogical order it will be detrimental. Some studies have found positive effects, at least from moderate amounts of computer use, especially in math. But much of the data shows a negative impact at a range of grade levels. As a matter of fact, it is evident that the results are equivocal. A recent study of millions of high school students in the 36 member countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found that those who used computers heavily at school “do a lot worse in most learning outcomes, even after accounting for social background and student demographics.” According to other studies, college students in the US who used laptops or digital devices in their classes did worse on exams. Why are these devices so unhelpful for learning? There are various explanations to fuel the argument.

When students read text from a screen, it’s been proved, they absorb less information than the text read on paper. Another frequently cited culprit is the distraction the devices afford. It could be a college student scrolling through Instagram or an elementary school student playing games on their devices. There are profound reasons too. Most important of them all is motivation. “It’s different when you’re learning from a person and you have a relationship with that person,” cognitive psychologist Daniel Willingham has said. “That makes you care a little bit more about what they think, and it makes you a little bit more willing to put forth an effort.” In addition to sapping motivation, technology can drain a classroom of the communal aspect of learning.

The EdTech advocates hold a vivid vision that is each child sitting in front of a screen that delivers lessons tailored to individual ability levels and interests. But a vital part of education is different students coming together to interact and share their ideas. These devices limit students capability of participating in debates and competitions and also hinder a child’s in-person sociability. The dangers of relying on technology are also particularly pronounced in literacy education and at early grade levels. Even more troubling, there’s evidence that vulnerable students are spending more time on digital devices than their more privileged counterparts. Undeniably, videos and audio recordings can help bring topics to life or give kids access to texts they would struggle to read for themselves. Online textbooks can be easily updated.

Math software could be used to aid debate between students who arrive at different answers to the same problem. Educators and reformers aiming to advance educational equity also need to consider the mounting evidence of technology’s flaws. Also, much-needed attention should be given to those students that show a relative lack of access to technology and the internet.

2 thoughts on “EdTech: The Perils and Promises

    1. Agree… technology has its pros and cons when education is in perceptive.
      The writing expresses the ideas and the facts perfectly. Education systems must get precise with providing students with distraction free environment.

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