Technology: A help or hindrance in class?


256px-Walden_computerIt would be easy to write off the use of technology in schools as a faddy distraction from learning and teaching. Some teachers fear the presence of information technology in their classrooms, particularly if they feel ignorant of how to use it. The mobile phone has been banned in most classrooms as a potential distraction, and many teachers and pupils could tell a tale or two of how mobiles have caused issues in schools. However, whether teachers and parents like it or not, the internet and all its associated paraphernalia is here to stay. Not only that, but going online to find information or communicate via social media is now the norm for young people. Teachers who ignore this entirely, and see merit only in the use of pens, paper and textbooks, are doing their pupils a great disservice, denying them the opportunity to learn in ways with which they can truly connect and identify.

Technology can be considered a hindrance to learning, but this is very much dependent on the approach taken by teachers and learning professionals. A simple approach, for example, is allocating a generous IT budget with no real objective. Children aren’t going to learn more or learn in a more efficient way just because there are tablets, laptops or an interactive whiteboard in the room. Without clear objectives, technology in the classroom becomes another distraction for the teacher to grapple with. IT should be viewed as an important tool for learning, but teachers must first decide on the precise nature of learning objectives. Having ascertained what they want their pupils to gain, they should then apply the use of tablets et al to the programme of learning. Teachers should ask themselves, is this technology going to accelerate and improve learning or is it simply being employed as a box ticking exercise?

The use of technology in schools can encourage peer to peer learning, particularly if social media is manipulated to encourage the sharing of ideas and information. IT can also be a fantastic means of creating a visual impact that can be used to inspire creativity and learning in the classroom. Slide shows of pictures, video footage and audio features can all be great ways to ignite a passion for learning in children and young people. Technology can also transcend the language barrier experienced by the thousands of children who do not speak English as their first language, making it much easier for teachers to offer an inclusive, integrated approach to learning and teaching.

Technology can be a hindrance with regard to learning in schools or colleges, as many a harassed teacher might tell you. However, as young people are so proficient at using the internet and related devices as tools for gathering information and for socialising, the teacher who ignores this entirely is failing to engage with their pupils in the ways that they understand best. A teaching professional is obligated to constantly re-evaluate how students learn; and that has to include the use of the internet and the devices, sites and apps that young people are using every day.

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I'm a former English teacher and private tutor who is passionate about education. I've been writing professionally for the past three years and have written educational worksheets for use in schools as well as contributing to an educational journal. I've also written on every other topic under the sun!

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