Technology in the classroom isn’t a new concept. Today’s 40-somethings had access to a computer lab in many schools growing up. Kids in the 1980s were learning how to swat flies with a mouse during their computer classes in kindergarten.
What has changed is the prevalence of technology in the classroom. In the 1980s, a school was lucky to have enough computers to support technology learning for one classroom at a time. Today, many schools have students using their own computers and tablets as part of the learning experience.
There is a lot of learning potential available when technology is in the classroom. There is also a higher risk of dependency on technology to recall information when necessary.
These are the essential technology in the classroom pros and cons to consider for parents, teachers, students, and administrators.
List of the Pros of Technology in the Classroom
1. It creates opportunities for active learning.
Teachers are able to receive instant feedback about their students when using technology to teach. It makes the learning process more active for students because they are engaging with technology in physical ways. Instead of lectures with a textbook, technology gives teachers an option to create immediate quizzes, online polling, or tools that help further the learning process.
2. It gives credibility to the lessons being taught.
Children today are well-versed in how to use technology from an early age. Even parents who are stringent with screen time requirements have children who know how to use computers, tablets, and smartphones by preschool age. That means these children take teachers who use technology seriously because they’re engaging at a level which is familiar to them.
3. It ensures full participation.
In the traditional classroom setting, you’ll have students who want to answer every question. You will also have students who refuse to answer any questions. Thanks to technology in the classroom, teachers can easily engage with students who may not be willing to participate publicly with lessons or assignments, creating more 1-on-1 teaching opportunities.
4. It unleashes the power of analytics.
Using technology means students are creating information that teachers and administrators can use to benefit the learning process. Teachers could use analytics to determine if there are specific areas of concern for certain students. Those who excel could have their lessons individually tailored to be challenging. With this information, instead of relying on group lessons, every student receives a learning plan that can meet their unique educational needs more effectively.
5. It eliminates the need to carry multiple textbooks.
For the K-4 grades, having technology in the classroom reduces the amount of physical space required for numerous textbooks. In the upper grades, students benefit because they can carry their textbooks in an e-format within their computer instead of lugging around a backpack of heavy books. Both groups benefit by having increased information access while benefiting from increased space.
6. It automates time-consuming tasks in the classroom.
Apps and tools can be used by teachers to help grade writing assignments. The process of answering frequent, common questions can be automated to reduce time commitments. Students benefit by having auto-correct functions on word processing software, access to internet resources, and online textbook availability with search options that help with subject studies.
7. It provides access to updated information instantly.
When you’re using technology in the classroom, you can have confidence that you’re using the updated version or edition of the information being taught. Before this was an option, schools had to consistently updated textbooks, at a high expense, to ensure the most relevant information was being offered to their students. Now schools can worry about providing updated technology with subscription access thanks to many of today’s educational SaaS options.
8. It gives students a real-world skill to use later in life.
We are living in a digital world. As technologies continue to evolve, we will find more of our lives dependent upon our knowledge of how to use them. Students who have technology in the classroom have a natural advantage here because they’re learning a real-world skill as they also learn reading, mathematics, and other core subjects.
9. It is a chance to learn about online safety and etiquette.
Before the age of 8, children typically trust everything that an advertisement tells them. Up until the teen years, there can still be a desire to trust first and question later. When dealing with an issue like online safety, it is important for children to learn how to safeguard their personal information. Having technology in the classroom allows teachers to offer practical advice and skill development opportunities which can do just that.
10. It can help students with alertness.
When exposed to artificial light, it can act as a way to focus on the information being presented. It may boost feelings of alertness while reducing feelings of fatigue. That can encourage the learning process to proceed naturally for students, even if their recovery period at home was not as beneficial as it could be.
11. It can provide more resources for lesson planning.
There are plenty of places on the internet where teachers are helping other teachers with lesson planning needs. Some are even providing professional help, creating a unique side hustle that wasn’t always available before. With templates, calendars, and other tools readily available, it can be much easier to plan lessons, create a curriculum, or even plan out the entire year thanks to the technology resources which are available in the classroom.
List of the Cons of Technology in the Classroom
1. It creates socioeconomic separations in the classroom.
When technology is in the classroom, students have a prerequisite to know how to use the equipment for learning. For households that are struggling financially, there may not be these technology options in the home. That places these students at a disadvantage because they’d be required to learn how to use the technology before they could begin learning subject materials.
2. It limits homework opportunities for disadvantaged students.
Unless the school is able to send the technology home with students, homework assignments which are dependent upon technology become difficult for disadvantaged students to complete. As of 2016, there were still 15% of homes that did not own some form of a computer. Forcing students to travel to a library or some other location for computer access creates more of a time and cost commitment when these may already be issues for them at home.
3. It can become a distraction.
As children grow older, technology becomes more of a distraction because of the information access it provides. At the university level, students who use technology in the classroom typically earn lower grades. There are numerous ways a computer pulls a student’s attention away from the learning lesson, from social media to online gaming. When one student is distracted, the effect tends to permeate to the other students in the classroom as well.
4. It changes how students socially interact with one another.
There is a real-world skill being developed when students learn how to interact with each other on a personal level. Whether two students decide to become friends is less important than the skills that develop when exploring the possibility of a friendship. Online interactions don’t eliminate this process. They just change it. How someone interacts with a person online is very different from how they may interact offline.
5. It can limit physical presentation skills.
Technology in the classroom can also go too far, relegating students to online presentations and their ability to design something using specific tools. There is still a need to verbally communicate with others in a public setting. Group collaboration is still a skill that must be present for students who are looking to transition into the labor force. Oral presentations encourage students to practice their public speaking skills. For that reason, technology should be used as a tool, rather than serving as a substitute for the teacher.
6. It could encourage cheating in the classroom.
Let’s face it. Some students have always worked harder at trying to find ways to cheat than they have studying for the lesson. With technology, it’s very easy to copy-and-paste the work of someone else to submit as their own. There are even freelancers who are willing to write essays for students online for a small fee. It is possible to structure lessons in a way that makes it difficult to cheat, such as making classroom questions a little different for each student. There must be vigilance here, however, to reduce the risks of this particular disadvantage.
7. It requires students to understand the quality of research materials.
Technology makes it easy for information to spread quickly. A recent quote from a senior cleric in Iran stated that 2,500 Iranians received U.S. citizenship while negotiating a nuclear deal with the country. The story was run in the U.S. by quoting the state-run news agency which quoted the single cleric. Once it was published in the United States, President Trump tweeted about the article, which led to it being evaluated as fact instead of what it was: a single quote from a biased individual. We must teach students the difference between a high-quality resource and a low-quality resource when researching information.
8. It can make lesson planning more difficult.
If teachers are choosing technology in the classroom, then they may need to work with software vendors individually. They may be asked by their school district to apply for grants on their own time. There may be student training needs to meet when introducing the technology for the first time. Teachers will also become the IT help desk of the classroom whenever there is a question from the student. These can negate the time advantages that the other benefits are able to provide.
9. It may over-stimulate students.
Access to the blue wavelength light emitted by computers may over-stimulate some students, which may lead to behaviors in the classroom. Modern computers offer a setting that can negate this light, using warm tones on the screen to lessen this effect. Glasses are available to counter this light issue as well. This does create an extra step in the learning process that some students (and parents) may not wish to follow if it involves an extra cost.
10. It reinforces concepts of inequality.
In the past, socioeconomic divisions in classrooms were based on the quality of clothes or the cleanliness of the student. Today, inequality is measured by the type of technology a student is able to use for learning. Schools are not immune to this either. Some districts don’t have the cash available to fund technology in the classroom yet. That means there will always be some students who fall through the cracks, which may create a lifelong issue of always trying to play catch-up with their education.
These technology in the classroom pros and cons show that moderation is the key to its success. There are times when having access to technology is highly beneficial to everyone. Many schools also find that there are times when technology access can be a hindrance. By evaluating these key points, everyone can work to find the proper balance required for a well-rounded learning experience.