Technology Degrades Student Performance

Technology Degrades

I think it is a great idea to embrace technology in the classroom. It’s the way the modern world works. Nobody really uses cursive writing to communicate these days. Instead, we type messages, letters, essays, and emails. That’s why using computers is absolutely essential.

It is also great to let students read online texts rather than using textbooks. This way, teachers can pick and choose what materials to present to our students. Many tasks can be done online and this helps to save time and money. I don’t have to spend hours printing and organizing papers anymore. I can simply provide a link.

There are several problems with using computers in the classroom. A singular computer lab isn’t sufficient anymore. Not all classes can have enough access to this space. We can allow students to bring in their own laptops, but what do we do with students who can’t afford one? We can let them use their phones to access the Internet and use certain apps. This seems to be the default these days, but is this the best tool for the job?

Once our students have the technology they need for school, we have a further problem. It is way too easy to become distracted. Students can listen to music, watch videos, play games, send messages, and engage in social media, while doing their work.

In Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age, Sherry Turkle writes, “…a student with the open laptop will multi-task in class. And we have learned that this will degrade the performance not only of the student with the open machine but all of the students around him or her.”

I want my students to attend to the task at hand and not get distracted by other online activities. However, many students think they can effectively multi-task. This just isn’t true. It takes the brain time to switch between activities. Therefore, if you multi-task it will actually take you longer to complete your tasks.

Also, the temptation to quickly change activities can be too much for us. “In the midst of our great experiment with technology, we are often caught between what we know we should do and the urge to check our phones.”

I have no idea how to handle this problem. There is no way we can block every unwanted website or app to force our students to attend to the task at hand.

Adults have problems staying on task too. In fact, just writing this article, I checked my Facebook several times. I should’ve been able to write this post in half an hour, it took me an hour.

I still don’t know what the solution is. I would like to limit the time the students have to work on an activity, but that’s not quite fair. Not all students work at the same pace and we shouldn’t expect them to.

What are your ideas? How do you handle technology in the classroom? Let’s continue this discussion on social media. Head over to my Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram account and make a comment. Thanks!

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