Monday, April 19, 2021

The pitfalls of technology in education

As much as I'm tech-savvy (or at least think I am), I'm still very old-school in many ways, as well. Now age 38, I grew up in between the emerging world of tech, video games, computers, social media, etc., and the previous generation.

I love reading the physical, print newspaper. I love holding physical books and magazines. I use an old-fashioned alarm clock instead of the alarm on my smart phone. And I keep a written calendar. I could never buy into the idea of keeping my calendar on any electronic device. 

Recently, I began tutoring a young man, a middle school student, who can use a little guidance in the areas of study skills and keeping organized. My advice to him right away, and it's the same advice I have for you, as well, is this: Go old-school with lots of paper and writing utensils! Let's explore further.

The student I'm tutoring - and all students these days, generally speaking, find themselves in similar situations simply because of how the classroom has evolved - is so dependent on tech for doing school work and trying to keep things organized. Items like his homework to-do lists, grades, assignments, various classroom and school information, etc., are spread out among several different apps, software programs, and locations. Because of this, it can be very easy to sometimes forget about assignments and miss key details and information. This is where old-school paper and writing instruments come in.

Slowly, I'm working with this student to integrate an old-fashioned system into his daily habits. The tech isn't going away, but the use of paper should help mitigate many of the effects that come as a result of having so many important items spread out among many different apps, locations, and programs. I recommend this same strategy for you, especially if you find yourself having a little difficulty with keeping everything organized and remembering where everything is.

I recommend that you have paper, pens, and highlighters handy. Keep a written calendar/planner, written to-do lists, paper to jot down thoughts and ideas on the fly, etc. at your workspace at home. I love keeping legal pads and a variety of smaller pads around, as well as file folders for different subjects and projects that I'm working on.

If you have specific goals you're working on achieving (like SMART goals), I strongly recommend that you have these goals written down on physical paper and kept in a visible place in your workspace at home where you're going to constantly see them. Before I started working with this student, he had several great SMART goals he was working on, but the goals were stored electronically. The problem with this is that he wasn't looking at his goals very often, and so it became easy to forget about them and to lose focus on what he'd like to ultimately accomplish.

The same goes with thoughts and ideas you may have on the fly - are you really going to want to go through the hassle of logging into your Chromebook in the moment and typing them into a new Google Doc? This is where keeping paper and pens around can be of great help to you.

I'll close with this quick story. Some weeks back, a co-worker of mine who had been tutoring a student in math at the school we work at, shared with me that this student was improving his math skills quite considerably. He was growing more confident in his abilities, and his grade in the class was rising. Then, one day, he had a math quiz. He scored a 67%. He took the quiz again, and he received the same score. He wasn't sure why he was getting this grade. He was truly baffled, and so was my co-worker. The problem? It turns out that he needed to click into a different app/site to do the last five problems. He got the first 10 problems correct both times, but he completely missed the last five. He didn't know they were there, waiting for him in another location. Truly, technology can be a double-edged sword.

What are your thoughts on all of this tech in the classroom these days? Have we become too dependent on it? For all the positive things tech can do for us, is it actually having the reverse effect in the realm of education? Weigh in with your thoughts, observations, and stories in the comments section below.

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