Technology Affects Learning (Part 2)
In the previous post, we discussed how technology affects learning. Technology affects learning because, in the global context of a digitally connected world, teachers are encouraged to use more technology in the classroom, and by extension, causes the classroom experience to become more interactive for students. In this article, we look at the educational tools used in teaching and weigh the negative effects of technology on teaching and learning. How do these tools aid or inhibit a student’s preparation for school assessment such as the PSLE, O level and A Level examinations?
Due to the advent of new technological learning tools, ranging from smart whiteboards to learning management systems, there has been an increased expectation on teachers to move beyond simply using the whiteboard when teaching. Teaching and learning have begun to shift away from teachers conveying facts to students, who are expected to write copious notes on paper. However, the use of digital tools, such as laptops, should complement traditional approaches of teaching because there are still benefits in using whiteboards and printed texts in the classroom.
Taking the lead in Singapore is the Ministry of Education’s educational technology section, of which one of its functions is to “provide strategic direction on ICT in education for 21st century learning and to position Singapore as a leader in the use of ICT in education”. With clear commitment to embrace technology in education, lessons become more ‘fun’ with technology instead of being stereotypically dry, tedious, or boring through traditional non-technological mediums.
Crucially, interactive technology such as quiz website Kahoot can result in learning being more interactive and memorable. In this case, class quizzes are made to resemble games. Hence, technology has the ability to create an engaging learning experience for students.
Beyond benefits about using technology in learning, the presence of digital tools may also end up influencing learning negatively. Technology such as smartphones and social media can become sources of distraction for students, diverting their attention away from learning. Such a phenomenon regrettably occurs both inside and outside the classroom.
Furthermore, because certain schools have previously required students to buy iPads to complement learning, and due to the need to use certain apps in class (e.g., a popplet to make mind maps or graphing apps for math lessons), students are tempted to go online for other uses. Instead of enhancing learning in the classroom, these tools impede students’ progress. Significantly, research has found that certain student-centered classroom technologies such as tablets in fact hurt performance rather than augment it. Once again, the teacher’s role in creating boundaries when using digital tools for learning is critical.
In case of school closure, digital tools, especially video conferencing apps, have become essential for the maintenance of sustained learning among students. If crafted well, lessons can be just as effective as face-to-face lessons with the teacher. Once the technical requirements and setting up have been done, students can learn from the safety and comfort of their homes, achieving the same learning outcomes as they would in school. However, not all students are equipped with the system requirements necessary to attend these online lessons. Moreover, the management of a virtual classroom also requires different training for teachers. Although the promise of a reliable, effective virtual classroom is becoming fulfilled as better tools come on scene, the acceptance of this teaching method among students, parents, teachers and administrators will need more time.
Indeed, it is evident that the impact of technology on learning can be both positive and negative. On one hand, technology has widened learning opportunities for students, as well as avenues to access information, and increase students’ engagement of learning. Yet, despite such opportunities, technology can affect learning negatively if learning technology becomes a distraction for students. Thus, what matters then is the level of supervision and guidance by adults to ensure that technology is well-utilised by students. Since the society we live in will only become more technologically enabled, more should be done to harness digital tools of learning.
Teachers remain the crucial factor when using digital tools in education. At Cognitus Academy, our teachers are experienced in the use of digital platforms and constantly equipping ourselves to meet future challenges.