Should we use tech in education
EdTech

Should we use technology in education?

So let’s not beat around the bush here, we make an edtech app. At Kami, we combine all our skills, brain power and a significant number of hours in the week to make an application that helps students and teachers get the most out of the classroom. Why do we do this? Quite simply because we deeply believe that technology is an invaluable tool for education. 

So why do we believe this so passionately?

There is no denying that the question about whether, and to what extent digital technology should be used in the classroom, is a serious one. As with all decisions that affect our young people, it’s important to ensure you are doing the best thing for them. 

To explore why we think tech is an essential part of the future classroom, we are going to explore all the reasons why you may be cautious of digital initiatives. 

 

 

Data Privacy

This is undoubtedly a number one concern when bringing technology into classrooms. Scandals around social media companies and big data holders have demonstrated how user data can be abused. Students are particularly at risk given both their susceptibility to ads and the lifelong digital footprint they are creating (surely no one wants that embarrassing post made at age 7 coming back to haunt a first job interview!).

Our natural urge with all the risks out there is to protect and shield. But like the ‘Just Say No’ campaigns of yesteryear, it fails to contend with the fact that these are risks that the next generation will have to contend with throughout their lives. So rather than limit their exposure, would it not be wiser to provide them with the information and practical education they need to survive and thrive in a digital world? 

Concepts like Digital Citizenship and digital literacy programs help students to cultivate healthy relationships with technology as a whole. Moreover, online security is a complex topic that is best explained by a professional educator, rather than ad hoc sources. Teaching students the practicalities of online safety in the classroom protects them both at school and in their own time on the internet.  

It is, however, important to state that technical education should be coupled with stringent school-wide data security practices. These policies and practices should be clear to everyone and have appropriate enforcement and investment. You can learn some more about ensuring student data protection practices here

 

 

Cyberbullying

Keyboard warriors aren’t always adults. From behind the shelter of a screen, with the assurance of digital affirmation, playground nastiness can take on a whole new life. 

So with cyberbullying and even more worrying activities like cyberbashing on the rise, will distancing tech from the classroom not help to reduce this behavior?

Well no, not really. The first thing to note is that even if there is a total device ban on school premises, most cyberbullying is already done at home. Secondly preventing devices doesn’t address the underlying behavioral issues. Creating a ‘not in our school’ mindset can actually force student victims and their families into dealing with online abuse alone. 

Again this comes back to the idea that education alters behavior better than ignorance. Concepts such as Digital Citizenship give teachers and students the opportunity to explore and discuss topics such as online etiquette, respect, and digital law. It’s an education that all internet users would benefit from, and where better to learn about appropriate online behavior than in the safe and structured environment of the classroom? New internet users need to be taught how to use this fascinating tool responsibly, in the same way we are taught how to introduce ourselves or conduct a civil conversation. 

 

 

Distraction

Screens and all the exciting things you can access with them can be a source of distraction. Though arguably most things in a classroom can divert attention – think pencils, windows, and even daydreams – there is no denying that devices and their internet connectivity have a peculiar draw. 

Fortunately, educators are well up to the task of instilling device discipline and techniques to focus attention on the task at hand. We are not belittling this issue or saying that it merely requires a firmer hand. On the contrary, it will likely involve some rule adaptations and thinking outside the box. However, tackling device distraction in your classroom also has huge benefits for students outside of school. 

Phones, laptops, and tablets will be a staple feature of your pupils’ study, work-life and leisure time for the foreseeable future. This will pose severe problems for all those who can’t follow up a simple search task because they become distracted by social media. Giving students the skills to manage their device usage and ensure focus, is already a very valuable life skill and one that will hold them in good stead for the future.  

Here are some examples of expectations and practices around device usage that can help minimize classroom distraction:

 

  • Switching screens off while the teacher is talking.
  • Never touching anyone else’s screen – note: this can be particularly useful for peer to peer learning as every action must be explained, not simply done for them by a neighbor.
  • Having internet-enabled only when necessary – many apps have an offline mode.
  • Educating students on internet safety.
  • Educating students about attention capturing tactics used by ads and other applications.

 

Reducing social interaction and collaboration

It’s easy to imagine the digital classroom as an Orwellian nightmare. Rows of young faces bathed in blue light, clicking away at a keyboard for hours upon hours in total silence.

The reality is quite the opposite. 

Research conducted by the U.S. Department of Education ‘Technology and Education Reform’ discovered that technology facilitates collaboration, cooperation, and peer tutoring. Even when each student has their own device, neighbors were regularly used as a source of immediate assistance and even more pleasingly, tech-savvy students actively enjoy helping their fellows to master the task at hand. 

 

 

 

Many devices now have options for students to cast their work to others in order to demonstrate concepts or to collaborate on a single document using annotation software. This allows pupils to learn from each other – encouraging classroom participation and accelerating overall progress. 

When students work together to achieve a task, the results are powerful. Embracing technology gives them the tools to collaborate more effectively and flexibly.

 

Exposure to online nastiness and fake news

Not all material online is appropriate for students to see. As in real life, violence, racism, fake news, and content of a sexual nature is represented on the world wide web. A by-product of increased internet use at school can be that pupils will stumble onto content which is clearly unsuitable for them. 

There are ways to reduce the chances of this, notably blocking sites and social media. But blocking isn’t a silver bullet – its technically very difficult to block everything which poses a threat and kids are VERY good at finding ways to do things they shouldn’t. 

So how can we keep students safe as they use internet-enabled devices? It’s a tricky one but an area where, again, the answer lies not in wrapping students in cotton wool, but arming them with the skills to protect themselves. 

Teaching students about the red flags and signs that they may be entering a site that will be unpleasant can help them to avoid stumbling into areas of the internet. It is also important to inform students about the ethics behind some of these forms of industry, for example, what they do and who they exploit to get material. Explaining the real-life impacts of their engagement with inappropriate material can help them to make informed decisions, both in school and at home.

 

To sum up

Technology can often feel like the big bad enemy, bringing unwelcome changes and problems to the classroom. But as we have explored, simply barring device access can often create more issues than it relieves. Instead, educating and empowering your students helps them to make their own way in an increasingly digital world.

On top of this, there are also an exciting range of benefits that the right classroom tech can provide. Check out the benefits of educational technology here.

 

Classroom technology holds many possibilities for teachers all over the world. To learn more about the world of EdTech, check out our blog.

 

Cathy Breed

Content Marketing Executive at Kami

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