The pros and cons of technology in the classroom have been debated for as long as new technology has been introduced in education systems. Whether we like it or not, this integration of computer technology in class will only continue to expand and advance. Critics and experts understand this but often wonder what price students pay at the expense of innovation.
When we think of the classroom, some of us may have classic images stuck in our minds from our favorite movies and TV shows, if not our past experiences. In your mind, you likely still see a teacher scrawling their name on a chalkboard, a pencil, paper, and a 500-page used textbook on your wobbly desk—vocabulary words lightly underlined. On the other hand, many millennials and Gen-Zers cannot imagine a classroom without some form of technology utilized. They grew up in classrooms with a TV or a projector to simplify the teaching process in any number of ways. Today, much of the day’s schoolwork is done on computers and iPads, and students can download their textbooks.
Is Technology the Best or Worst Thing for Education
Let’s look at this video about how technology can impact the classroom dynamic from a teacher’s perspective.
This teacher shows that this is not an easy question to answer. Let’s dive deeper into the pros and cons of using technology in classrooms to better understand his debate. What can we expect from children educated in this modern learning environment? How can we as educators embrace such change in how kids learn in school with open eyes?
The Pros and Cons of Technology in the Classroom
This conversation often boils down to how students engage with technology in the classroom. However, there is so much more involved in this debate. Weighing the pros and cons, we will discuss technology in the classroom related to five categories: Student-Teacher Connection, Performance Tracking, Collaboration and Participation, Skill Building for the Future, and Overall Engagement.
When students feel comfortable around their teacher, their overall performance reflects this. In regards to student and teacher connection, lines of communication should always be open. Kids ask more questions and participate more if they feel connected to their instructor. Knowing that their teacher is in their corner, kids feel they can better overcome each academic obstacle.
Pro: Technology Helps Teachers Adjust to Different Learning Styles
A major advantage to using technology in class is that teachers can tailor lesson plans to each student’s learning style. Every kid is different; some more visual thinkers than others. Today, it is possible to give certain students the chance to illustrate what they’ve learned through current software programs on tablets or computers. If some students prefer to draw as they take notes, maybe creating digital infographics for what they’ve learned is more your students’ speed. There are countless ways in which lessons can be taught through blended and learning-style adjusted teaching methods. Students and teachers have more ways to meet in the middle than ever before.
Pro: Teachers Connect to Students Through Technology
Technology encompasses every other part of kids’ lives today. Teachers and students use smart devices and live on the internet simultaneously, even if for different reasons. Implementing technology in the classroom allows students and teachers to connect through some authentic shared learning experiences. The application of certain websites and apps in school will be for educational purposes, of course. Nevertheless, using sites that kids commonly use—like Youtube, Facebook, or Instagram—and applying them to the week’s lesson plan will likely help students see their teachers in a different, more approachable light.
Teachers do all they can to analyze their students’ progress because doing so allows them to adjust their lesson plans when necessary. If everyone is doing well, teachers can move forward to the next module. On the other hand, if many kids fall behind, teachers can slow things down and address problem areas among their students. New technology in the classroom can make this process faster and more interactive.
Pro: Performance Data Becomes Easier to Track
Numerous platforms available to classrooms everywhere incorporate data analytics. The daily assignments and tests done through online learning platforms can tell teachers so much about their students. Scores are saved on digital teacher planners, and teachers can see problem areas’ breakdown based on those scores. With so much information available with just a few clicks, teachers can now better pinpoint the issues individual students are having, as well as class-specific performance levels.
Before the school semester truly begins, students’ familiarity with covered topics can be tested through these software platforms. The results of early quiz results can help teachers fine-tune their lesson plans. Other student response systems, like online polls, can give teachers yet even more information to go on. Technology used in classrooms this way has proven to be very effective for teachers.
Pro: Efficiency of Performance Tracking Improves
There are many tasks teachers do behind the scenes that help a class run smoothly. With tracking students’ performance, teachers have to gather and assess their students’ data regularly. Before computer technology was regularly used in class, teachers had to identify slower, more repetitive ways. The more efficient the curriculum’s evaluation process becomes, the faster teachers can adapt and better serve their students.
Con: Performance Tracking Software Could Be Counterproductive
The pros of using technology in the classroom are dependent on how well teachers and faculty acclimate themselves to said technology. Some platforms make many pedagogy processes simpler. Some platforms are complicated, depend on other software programs to work, or just don’t fit a teacher’s instruction style. Quantifying student test, quiz, and poll data to assess what students have learned, and help students review what they haven’t learned is important. But the point of classroom innovation should be to help teachers work smarter, not harder.
Collaboration and Participation
Technology in the classroom is said to encourage more collaboration between students and more in-class student participation. The apps, sites, and class-specific platforms woven into school schedules can provide new ways for the class to be conducted, especially for interactive learning and presentation days. While these things are true, there are drawbacks as well. When dealing with student collaboration, it comes down to how the technology is applied.
Pro: Classes Become More Interactive
Using technology during a lesson can produce positive results in student participation levels. Utilizing social media sites, for example, has proven to foster an interactive experience. Class-specific platforms often have social media-like discussion forums, as well as real-time response systems. Students who wouldn’t normally speak up can offer their opinion through an engagement system of a teacher’s choice. Polling and other computer or tablet activities are another way for students to actively participate at the end of class. In the end, students love using their devices in class because doing so excites them.
Pro: Group Work Gets a Boost
Group projects are meant to get students to learn and work together as a team. Some students thrive during group assignments, and adding technology to the equation will only produce better results. Students can utilize their devices and work together to solve problems in ways that may even surprise teachers. Groups are great for less tech-savvy students, as their peers can help get them acclimated. These online platforms help kids who have trouble working in groups because they can demonstrate participation in more concrete ways.
Countless websites and software provide more creative, hybridized presentation options. Gone are the days when a group’s best option had been to use PowerPoint. While PowerPoint still has appeal, allowing technology in the classroom has given rise to so much more for kids to choose from.
Con: Technology Can Undermine Group Work
While technology can improve student collaboration and participation, it can also have the opposite effect. Students are easily distracted and always looking to entertain themselves online in the ways they are used to doing at home. Parameters must be set in place for group assignments and projects that keep the class on task. Sometimes using online platforms makes this harder than it’s worth to utilize them.
Con: Technology Can Lead to Less Social Interaction
Interactive tools through computers and other devices can have a counterintuitive effect on collaboration and participation among students. Kids interact with a device more than their peers, in some cases. Ideally, balancing device or computer work with group work that requires face-to-face interactions is the way to go.
Skill Building for the Future
Most would agree that one of the best advantages to including technology in the classroom would be students’ learning skills needed in the workforce. There will never again be a time when computers, devices, and specialized software won’t be used on the job for most professions. Kids’ exposure to technology, particularly how it is applied, will only work in their favor in the long run.
Pro: Prepares Students for IT and STEM Futures
Most kids take to online platforms, whether for education or recreation. A large portion of them will be ahead of the curve, on the path to a career in IT and related fields. The implementation of technology in class solidifies an inescapable future, as this field grows. Additionally, STEM fields are dependent on people who know their way around a computer.
Pro: Prepares Students for General Workforce Demands
Not every child will work in IT or STEM fields someday, but nearly every child will need to know their way around CMOS systems, professional social media sites, and other work-specific software. Work handhelds and tablets at most offices that have programs and apps installed, for example, mirror the school tablets that students use in class. Even work-from-home jobs will have certain platforms that workers will have to learn.
Modern, technology-blended school curriculums will prepare students for the real world. This is a positive effect of technology in the classroom, a gift for students who will keep giving.
Con: Not Applicable to Every Student’s Future
It is easy to assume everyone under 21 can now use any app, website, or piece of software thrown at them. It is also easy to assume that kids who are not as fast at picking up computer skills will catch up enough to fit basic requirements once they look for work.
However, not everyone has an affinity for computers, devices, and programs. For whatever reason, certain students may not take to any of it and be better off studying and completing assignments in more traditional ways.
Pro: Technology Makes Classes More Interesting
When collaboration, participation, using technology in the classroom can create a fun, dynamic learning environment. With the right planning and implementation, kids will feel more encouraged to complete assignments, ask questions, utilize online platforms’ responsive systems, and express real interest in the subject matter.
Con: Generally, Technology Can Be Distracting
There is no way around this fact. In every classroom scenario a teacher could think of, there is a chance students will focus more on playing with the device or playing on the computer than the actual lesson at hand. Technology in the classroom can be associated with entertainment more than educational engagement. For example, some YouTube videos might do less to educate students and more to preoccupy them for a time without a chance to retain information actively.
Con: Technology May Not Match Learning Speed Effectively
The speed at which kids learn in an average classroom does not always match how they receive information on the internet or through an online platform. Students need time to form cognitive thoughts, and topics that require more real-world critical thinking may not get it. Students learn better when technology use is modified for the classroom where needed. Breaking down longer videos with question-and-answer sessions is one example of this.
The pros and cons of using technology in the classroom are still heavily disputed. Many others may appear as more computer software innovations make their way into school curriculums. The advantages seem to outweigh the disadvantages; overall, new technology allows teachers to help their students better. However, even if this is not the case for every child, there does not seem to be an end in sight for incorporating technology in the classroom.