As a student, I am confronted with educational technology every day. Teachers connect beamers to their laptops or they use a smartboard. Meanwhile, my fellow students are looking something up on their laptops, tablets or smartphones.
In 2012, the One Laptop Per Child organization started a special experiment in Ethiopia. The One Laptop Per Child organization was interested to see if illiterate children who had never been exposed to written words, could teach themselves how to read with the help of educational apps on a tablet. The experiment took place with about 20 children that live in two rural villages. One village is located near the crater of a volcano at 11.000 feet and the other village is located in the Great Rift Valley. A few employees of the organization travelled to the villages to drop off closed boxes. These boxes contained the tablets, together with a solar charging system. There was no instruction guide in the box. Ethiopian technicians had taught adults in the village how to use the tablets, but within four minutes, the first child had figured out that the box could be opened. He found the on/off switch on the tablet, and turned it on. The results of the experiment were promising: after five days, the children were using 47 apps per child per day. After two weeks, they were singing ABC-songs in the village. After five months, the children had hacked Android. A few months after they dropped off the tablets, researchers discovered that the children were still very engaged with using and charging the tablets. Furthermore, the memory chips in the tablets showed the researchers that the kids were making great progress with spelling and writing words.
Worldwide, around 100 million first-grade-aged children do not have access to schooling. This experiment could lead to an increase of basic education all around the globe. An amazing outcome, but what effects does educational technology have when used in classrooms?
- Pro: Effective Learning
Educational technology was designed to make learning quicker and easier. With the use of technology in the classroom, the teacher can make use of visual illustrations. This makes learning easier. Furthermore, technology allows students to have instant access to all kinds of information, which can improve their learning experience. This knowledge can then easily be shared with the rest of the class.
- Con: Technology makes our brains lazy
The instant access to information that students can gain through the use of technology also has a downside. It means that they barely have to remember anything, because they know that they can find almost anything they want to know on the Internet. However, not everything students find on the Internet is reliable and it will be necessary to inform them about reliable source searches.
- Pro: There is a wide range of available tools
Classrooms nowadays are filled with tech-savvy people. To meet their needs, teachers have a lot of options. Tablets and smartphones can be used as educational tools with the use of apps. In the lectures at my school, we sometimes make use of an online quiz that the teacher set up. This is a fun way of learning the course contents.
- Con: All these tools can be distracting
The educational apps and games may be fun, but there are also more than enough other time-wasting apps and games that can be found on laptops, tablets and smartphones. If we take a look at the case with the Ethiopian kids, we see that they started with educational apps that were pre-programmed on the tablets. Months later, when they got more familiar with the tablet, they ended up hacking Android. The many functions that mobile devices offer can be very distracting.
- Pro: Technology in class can teach life skills
Writing emails, preparing presentations, creating spreadsheets, and finding reliable sources are just a few examples of how technology can prepare someone for the working life. We are living in a digital era and are expected to be familiar with these basics. Using technology in class from a young age onwards can help students master their required skills by the time they graduate.
- Con: Online safety and privacy
Especially for more unexperienced users, mistakes online can be easily made. Dark parts of the Internet or wrong privacy settings could potentially be dangerous. Students should not be able to access unsuitable materials.
There are many pros and cons when it comes to educational technology. What is your opinion on the use of technology in classrooms? Is there another pro or con that you want to share with us? Do you agree with the ones mentioned here? Post a message in the comments!