Children and teens have been labelled as digital natives, because they heavily rely on and use the internet and digital technology. Teens’ lives extend into their Facebook, Instagram, Twitter accounts. It makes sense; they are surrounded by technology in nearly every part of their day.
Technology has quickly permeated the teaching space, and has been extraordinarily helpful in so many ways. For instance, it has provided new and easy ways to differentiate material, assign lessons or projects, communicate with students and parents, access new bright ideas for teaching, and so much more.
BUT, technology does have downsides that are extremely important to not be forgotten.
According to an NPR article, “Last fall, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development published its first-ever, and one of the largest-ever, international analyses of student access to computers and how that relates to student learning. (The OECD administers the PISA test, the world-famous international academic ranking.)
For this report, the researchers asked millions of high school students in dozens of countries about their access to computers both in the classroom and at home, and compared their answers to scores on the 2012 PISA. Here's the money quote:
‘Students who use computers very frequently at school do a lot worse in most learning outcomes, even after controlling for social background and student demographics.’
Keep reading to find out why we should slow the roll on tech- we don’t need to be full steam ahead by replacing everything with a digital version!
Reading on a Screen is Not as Effective
There is a lot of research on reading print versus reading on a screen. I have gathered the information that seemed to be the most consistent across the board.
According to Naomi Baron in her article, Why Digital Reading is No Substitute for Print, she shares her extensive research findings on reading digitally versus reading print. Most students responded that print was more “aesthetically pleasing”. Students say they are also less likely to multi-task and their eyes aren’t strained when reading from a book. Another positive student outlook is the fact that in a book, students are able to “see and feel” where they are in the book.
In addition to students’ preferences, Baron also looked at a bigger question- do the students learn better from reading print or reading on a screen?
This is where research becomes conflicting; many studies have sought to answer this.
Some studies show students attain better test scores when reading print. However, many more studies conclude the medium does not make a difference.
According to Baron’s article, “The problem, however, with learning-measurement studies is that their notion of ‘learning’ has tended to be simplistic. Reading passages and answering questions afterwards may be a familiar tool in standardized testing, but tells us little about any deeper level of understanding.
She also informs us that, “Some researchers are beginning to pose more nuanced questions, including one scholar who has considered what happens when people read a story in print or on a digital device and are then asked to reconstruct the plot sequence. The answer: Print yielded better results.”
Writing on a Screen is Not as Effective
There was a study published in Psychological Science by Pam Mueller & Daniel Oppenheimer of Princeton University and UCLA in 2014. Several students wrote out their notes either by hand or on a laptop. The study found that the students that wrote their notes by hand actually learned more. Their memory was tested for factual detail, conceptual comprehension, and synthesizing capabilities.
The students who used laptops ended up with more words from the lecture in their notes, but their understanding of the concepts was weaker than the students that hand-wrote their notes.
Scientific American tells us that even though people generally type faster than write, more notes aren’t necessarily better.
Implementation is Often Ignored
There are, of course, many many upsides to using technology in the classroom; it just needs to be implemented the CORRECT way. There are a few considerations to keep in mind.
First, an article from Business Insider tells us it’s essential to analyze the task at hand, and then decide which medium is the best fit.
“One of the most consistent findings from our research is that, for some tasks, medium doesn't seem to matter. If all students are being asked to do is to understand and remember the big idea or gist of what they're reading, there's no benefit in selecting one medium over another."
The article goes on to explain, “But when the reading assignment demands more engagement or deeper comprehension, students may be better off reading print."
One key idea is that teachers should remember to teach their students to be aware that the medium they choose could affect their learning. This would help boost metacognitive learning and reading comprehension.
Finally, I’d like to end with Robert A. Bjork’s 20 year old concept, “desirable difficulty.” It simply states that sometimes, doing things the easy way actually hinders our ability to learn. Obstacles that frustrate us help us learn. While technology can make note taking and learning seem easier and more fun, it takes away the challenge and creativity.
Strategies like the doodle note method maximize the advantages of learning through hand-written notes along with extra brain benefits. By engaging both the visual and linguistic pathways of the brain and incorporating both hemispheres, students can strengthen their focus and retention much more than with notes on a laptop.
How are you going to incorporate technology with this information in mind? Leave us a comment below!
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