Most people know intuitively that the educational process is being impacted by new technology, but many may not realize the subtle ways it has been woven into our society. Most would agree that the Internet, for example, has greatly reduced the amount of time and effort required to write a research or term paper-but what about claims that technology such as smartphones are reducing attention spans leading to less qualified graduates? Such changes are difficult to discern, but a lot of researchers are looking into the impact technology is having on the educational system and at ways to make it for the better.
First, the down side-several prominent researchers studying the impact of cell phone use and video game playing on modern children have come to a consensus: it really does lead to reduced attention spans which ultimately result in less being learned both in school and at home. It also leads to faster teacher burnout as it becomes more difficult to get and hold student’s attention. One bright note is that some of the researchers suggest that instead of resorting to more entertaining teaching techniques, teachers look to new technological ways to reach their students. One of those ways might be through the use of other technology. Textbooks on tablet computers, is one example. More and more schools are doing so because of the obvious advantages: up to date information, animated graphics, sound capabilities, embedded learning applications, etc.
Another way that educators are using new technology is by taking advantage of the Internet. In a recent research project, Henry Jay Becker, conducted a massive study of teacher habits focusing most specifically on how they are using the Internet. He found that teachers are using email and texting as a means of communicating with students and parents-they’re using Facebook and other social media as well. He also found that many are using cloud data depositories to share papers, graphics, video and other classroom material and that some are also using interactive applications developed specifically for children at various grade levels. In summing up, he concludes that new technology is adding richness to the learning experience and that both teachers and students are receiving great benefit from it.
Technological change isn’t limited to just children, of course, college educators and students are being impacted as well. Universities now offer degrees online and student/instructor interactions via the Internet are now the norm. Furthermore, students have access to higher quality and more up to date research in their chosen field than at any other time in history. The most profound changes are in taking place in ways that researchers call “disrupting the classroom.” This means that instead of giving or listening to boring lectures, students interact with both instructors and automated lessons. Instructors monitor the pace of learning and offer guidance along the way rather than read from notes. The new method is believed to be more engaging, rewarding and in the end, a more pleasant experience for both instructor and student.
What cannot be discerned at this time, of course, is whether students are better or worse off than generations that have come before them. The new technology is still too new to tell. That will change of course as time passes and today’s students make their way into the work force-future research on how well they are doing will be the ultimate measure.