The Effects of New Technology on Learning

by Guest Blogger

in Tech Tips for the Family

Technology is changing the way kids learn in schools and at home. Students are now able to bring their work with them wherever they go because of laptop computers and handheld tablets, like the iPad. Having these electronic tools seems essential to all of us, including kids, nowadays and we wonder how we ever survived without them.

But how vital are these tools in education? And how is technology changing how and what we learn?

Not too long ago, students were lucky to have one computer in their classrooms and the teacher wrote the lessons on a chalkboard. Now it is much more common to see each student with their own laptop or iPad and the teachers writing on smart-whiteboards that connect to these computers. With the way the world is becoming dependent on the use of technology in day-to-day life, it is good for the younger generation to learn a basic understanding of these tools, even though the software systems will most likely change by the time they enter the work force.

Researchers have also discovered that students learn more in less time when taught digitally. This appears to be due to an increase in motivation to use the computer or iPad. The studies found that if students enjoyed their learning environment more, mostly due to the use of electronic devices, they would retain more information and score higher on standardized tests. They see these tools as fun, which can help get rid of the “boring” factor of school.

Students are also able to do more complex tasks earlier on because of the capabilities of technology. However, this does present the problem of becoming dependent on these devices to solve these challenges, especially those above their learning level. Don’t you remember having to learn how to do math in your head before you were given a calculator to solve an equation? If students don’t learn how to problem-solve on their own, it may present challenges for them down the road because they expect to have the answer right at their fingertips.

Recently psychologists at Columbia University released an article on the effect search engines and the Internet are having on our ability to memorize. which concluded that we are less likely to remember discrete information than we are where we found it, and that we only commit something to memory if we think we won’t be able to access it later, when we need it.

Commenting on the study to Scientific American Betsy Sparrow, head researcher on the study, said that memorization isn’t as important as critical thought and understanding on a conceptual level, neither of which are threatened by the new form of ‘transactive’ memory.

While students are becoming more digitally advanced than the prior generation, it is good to learn the basics as well. Having a child read a book, write out a math problem, or do research in a library may not appeal to them as much as “playing” on an iPad, but it can only add to their education.

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