We are once again turning towards the great debate as to whether technology is benefitting the education sector or hindering it.

There is no doubt, in my mind that is, that technology is benefiting the education sector. Sure, we are actively encouraging our youth to become obsessed with technology; however, if they already have this obsession, then educators should take advantage of this. Educate where the masses are.

However, it must be pointed out that a fine line exists here. I recently read an article on thetechedvocate.org which spoke about the untold benefits that technology can have on the education sector.

Endless possibilities

The article points out that the hottest trend in education is personalized learning, where studies are individualized according to interest and competency, learning happens not only in the classroom but beyond the confines of the school walls and bell schedule, and students take ownership of their courses of study.

Teachers have long been aware that no two children learn the same way, have the same interests, or even demonstrate the same needs when it comes to instruction. For many teachers, the only way to address the variety of needs in the classroom and deliver personalized instruction is with technology.

The article adds that emerging technologies are meeting the demands of teachers and their students in surprisingly individualized ways. Some of the new technologies scaffold learning in a predictable pattern leading to skill mastery and others allow for more creative exploration.

Summit Basecamp and Summit Learning

The article points out that part of the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative, and directed by Laurine Powell Jobs, Summit Learning is an online platform conceived as a way to change high school instruction through personalized instruction.

The Summit Learning program requires that teachers change their mindset about traditional education practices and adopt those espoused by the initiative, including using Google Chrome and G-Suite or Office 365 and exploring learning opportunities outside the traditional school day.
Students engage in sequences of lessons that take them along pathways that lead to academic success, as measured by standardized testing.

Get Waggle, by Knewton

The article adds that Knewton developed Get Waggle in response to the need for teaching students skills through technology.

Aligned to the Common Core, Get Waggle scaffolds instruction for students, helping them to close gaps in learning and move forward through the curriculum. According to the developers at Knewton, students must “practice smart, and assessment takes care of itself.”

For teachers, Get Waggle mines student data and groups students by their performance on identified learning objectives. Teachers get an immediate picture of overall class performance, and they can drill down to single student success for quicker intervention.

Go Meta, from Metaverse

The thetechedvocate.org website points out that emerging technology companies like Metaverse are blending virtual and augmented realities to create personalized user experiences for students.
Similar to a Pokemon scavenger hunt, this discovery-style app lets users create their own augmented reality experiences, but the company sees itself carving out a niche in personalized education by offering unique instructional experiences like meeting historical figures and participating in field trips.

The article adds that thanks to emerging technologies like these, personalized learning is disrupting education in schools across the nation.

Personalized learning meets students where they are in the learning continuum and carries them forward to academic success.

The other side

But what is the other side of the coin. Is technology detrimental to education? Is it disrupting it?

A recent article on sciencedaily.com published research by the University of Zurich which said that parents who restrict their children’s use of new media technologies may be acting counterproductively in the long run, particularly if they invoke afterschool homework time as the reason.

Their children’s scholastic achievements at college lag behind the academic performance of same-age peers, a University of Zurich study shows.

Modern technologies such as computers, smartphones, televisions and gaming consoles are alleged to exert a variety of impacts, both positive and negative.

The article adds that there are concerns, for instance, that their constant availability may harm communication skills and cognitive performance, particularly in teenagers. Against this backdrop, parents are frequently advised to set restrictions and clear rules on how long children are allowed to use certain technologies.

College students look back

The article points out that a study conducted by University of Zurich communication scientist Eszter Hargittai and her research collaborator Drew Cingel has examined the impact that technology rules, and the reasons that parents give for those rules, have on later-life academic achievement.

They surveyed more than 1 100 first-year students at a US university well-known for the broad socio-demographic diversity of its student body. The study surveyed students’ recollections and retrospective perceptions of the rules they faced in childhood and collected data on their socio-demographic traits and academic grades.

Well-intended reasons with adverse consequences

The article points out that Hargittai and Cingel have shown that students whose parents had set clear rules on technology use during childhood and cited reasons for doing so do not outperform their fellow students in college.

On the contrary, when parents justified their rule-setting with the specific reasoning that technology use cuts into homework time, their children actually performed worse in college.

That’s an interesting finding, says Prof. Hargittai: “Parents normally set these rules to promote their children’s scholastic development and to make sure that they invest enough time in schoolwork. But that evidently can also backfire: The well-intended rule can have unintended adverse consequences.”

The article adds that one might argue that it’s mainly the parents of children experiencing difficulty in school who tend to set rules to encourage homework diligence. Yet scholastic aptitude during high school was also factored into the statistical analysis. The effect of technology use rules on later-life school grades turned out negative regardless of scholastic aptitude.

At the end of the day, it is about personal choice. There are a lot of good and bad points about the impact that technology is having on education and child development.

In my mind, technology has massive benefits if it is used in moderation. Kids should also be allowed to live and enjoy their youth. This cannot be experienced through technology.