Ed Tech and learning: the pros and cons

Ed Tech and learning: the pros and cons

Plato once said that “If men learn this, it will implant forgetfulness in their souls; they will cease to exercise memory because they rely on that which is written, calling things to remembrance no longer from within themselves, but by means of external marks. What you have discovered is a recipe not for memory, but for reminder”. Given that he was talking about writing things down with pen on paper, technology in education has certainly come a long way.

The digital age is well and truly upon us. We have recently seen a spike in the introduction of technology in schools. Whilst students may have previously hidden their electronics from their teachers, many are now being encouraged to bring and use them in class as learning tools. So, how does the integration of education and technology work? And how is it affecting our students?

What is Ed Tech?

Education Technology (Ed Tech) refers to technological processes and tools to improve education. It includes all forms of technology from interactive whiteboards to visualisers or apps that can be accessed through tablets and/or phones. It is used with the intention of delivering a new form of learning.

What Does the Research Say About Ed Tech?

As with most things in education, there are conflicting views as to the effectiveness of Ed Tech. Research suggests that staff believe that technology would enhance their communication with students and reduce teaching pressure. However, they also had concerns regarding student achievement and expenditure. Everyone from parents, teachers, education professionals and students themselves want to find the best ways to learn, but using technology in schools is a fairly recent introduction. So, what are the pros and cons?

Advantages of Ed Tech

Enhances student engagementResearch suggests that interactive activities have the potential to boost student learning. For example, online platforms such as Kahoot! allow students to collaborate and incorporate technology into the classroom, making the act of learning more interesting for today’s students. Evidence suggests that technology in the classroom can make students more motivated to learn and take more ownership of their learning.  The same study found that over one-third of teachers found classroom technology was likely to encourage students to be more self-directed and created more interactive lessons.

Improves digital literacy – The House of Lords report  stated that “Digital literacy should be the fourth pillar of a child’s education alongside reading, writing and mathematics…”. Although we wouldn’t put it on a par with those other areas, in today’s world being tech-savvy is an important skill for students’ learning and future career. Integrating technology as part of their education could build a foundation for students to benefit long-term.

Going paperless – Replacing notebooks with text files and textbooks with eBooks could reduce our environmental impact. Encouraging students to become more technology-friendly whilst introducing them to sustainable alternatives is a win-win situation.

Disadvantages of Ed Tech

Immense expenditures – Introducing technology such as computers, interactive whiteboards, etc. into classrooms can have a very hefty cost, especially at the beginning. With tightening budgets, many schools cannot afford Ed Tech. The question isn’t just do they aid learning, but do the cost outweigh the benefits, which could have been directed elsewhere.

Major source of distraction – Social media and video games are only a few of the distractions that technology can cause. Research shows that giving students access to technology can be detrimental to their learning if they are easily distracted. A study published in the Journal of Communication Education showed that students without mobile phones performed better academically as they were able to recall more detailed information. These students also scored a full grade-and-a-half higher on a multiple-choice test than those who actively used their mobile phones.

Room for cheating – Access to technology means access to messaging services or internet searches. This could allow students to google or ask their peers for answers to test questions or how to complete a task.

The traps of fake information – The internet is open to almost everyone. Whilst this is beneficial to many, it also allows people to provide inaccurate information to others. It is important for students to be aware of how to identify reliable sources.

Final Thoughts

In today’s world, technology is everywhere, and within education it can both help and hinder student learning. A new wave of technology that can be used as a teaching tool is coming. Weighing up the cost-benefit and using it efficiently and effectively will hopefully help schools decide if/how to use Ed Tech effectively.

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