Determining whether or not technology use in the classroom is positive for the children in the classroom has been subject of debate for many years. Since technology has become more and more available and much cheaper to install and use in the classroom, many teachers have been utilizing different technologies as teaching tools in their classrooms. Whether or not the use of technology in the college classroom brings more harm than good is debatable. While technology has been a central factor in many sectors including business and education, this debate has taken center stage with the growth of new and more accessible technologies. Proponents on both sides of the debate have been fighting hard to have their opinions on the issue heard. The age of the students in question has also become a central part of the debate, with some people finding middle ground and claiming that young children should not be exposed to excessive amounts of technology in the classroom, but that as they age, age-appropriate levels of technology use should be encouraged in the classroom. Plenty of research has been done regarding technology in the classroom; the problem is obtaining and assessing all the information available. Overall, technology in classrooms has been good for education as a whole.
The college classroom is one place where technology is already commonplace. It is not unusual to see college students toting laptops or tablets to class; in addition, college campuses may use technologies like overhead projectors connected to computers to allow professors to give presentations. For instructors who have large classes, these technologies may be excellent for students who would otherwise have trouble seeing a traditional white-board set-up.
However, these basic and non-intrusive technologies-- technologies focused on assisting the instructor rather than replacing the instructor-- are, as previously stated, already commonplace in college campuses. There are other technologies that are taking hold that are different from these technologies; interactions between students and computers or students and instructors vis-a-vis computers have been growing exponentially. According to Osorio et al (2005), “the human computer interaction makes communication, a central factor in education, easier”. The human-computer interaction makes the conveyance of information easier through eliminating barriers associated with human weaknesses. However, "the success of technology integration into classrooms depends on how end users receive and embrace it" (Gu, & Zhu, Y, 2013). Gu and Zhu (2013) suggest that it is not the existence or use of the technology that necessarily creates a successful classroom; rather, it is the way the instructor or class leader implements the use of the technology that makes a difference.
In today’s world, it is increasingly difficult to be successful in any field without a thorough understanding of computers and computer technologies. Refusing to introduce children to technologies that are appropriate for their age and development level puts them behind the curve when it comes to understanding technologies and utilizing them effectively; by the time students become college students, their study habits are already entrenched, and they must be literate in the technologies that they are being asked to use. Osorio et al (2005) write, “Technology is the single most important way of introducing efficiency to the wheels of higher education.” In the research conducted by Osario et al. (2005), “efficiency” is written to mean that the students in the college classroom are capable of effortlessly accessing, retrieving and applying information in research. Using technologies efficiently may be the difference between success and failure in a higher-education setting.
Tertiary educational institutions are not merely places of academic learning. Most tertiary institutions-- particularly those that cater primarily to undergraduates-- emphasize that a large amount of social and environmental enrichment happens at these institutions. Technology provides applications that assist in personal development. Patricia Riley (2013) notes "Some additional apps that my students recommend for rehearsal and performance assistance" help her students perform to their highest potential in a number of artistic pursuits (Riley, 2013). In short, technologies like apps for smartphones and tablets help students manage their social lives as well as their academic lives; these apps teach them to manage their time effectively and broaden their horizons as a result of the extra time that they have.
Accessibility is yet another pro of using technology in the classroom setting of colleges. According to Reed (2010), “technology makes a wide array of resources readily available to the college student”. Accessibility and retrieval are closely linked. Gone are the days when research was a long, tedious process for students; no longer do students have to spend hours upon hours scouring the library for pertinent information that may not exist. Today, technologies allow students to tap into untold amounts of information, allowing them to use their time to collate and analyze information, rather than spending all their time gathering it. However, this means that students must spend more time learning how to determine what information is good information; when anyone can publish anything on the Internet, it is important to learn to discern good information from bad information. This is one area that technology cannot truly help students; students must learn to use their critical thinking and discernment skills to utilize all the information that they have access to.
Learning to discern positive methods for utilizing technology from ineffective or negative methods is fundamentally important for students. Students who do not understand technologies are apt to fall behind as they age, especially when large volumes of research are necessary in tertiary institutions. There is a reason that one of the main goals of programs like Teach for America is modernizing schools and providing them with up-to-date technologies: it is because schools with access to technologies like modern computers, audio-video equipment, and other similar technologies are more likely to be successful and develop marketable skills from a young age. No one is suggesting that technologies should take over for instructors, but technologies can and should be used to supplement teaching.
Science classes are also in need of new technologies, especially for students who hope to go on to science-related careers. Learning the scientific method young and learning to use the related technologies is fundamentally important for students who wish to be successful in science in the long run. In particular, sciences like physics and chemistry are constantly in need of an upgrade; without these upgrades, students in schools that have out-of-date equipment are constantly at a disadvantage in tertiary institutions over those students who have had access to good labs and excellent equipment. Setting children who are otherwise predisposed to being excellent at the sciences back is not in anyone’s best interest; today, most scientific advancements are made using highly advanced technological equipment, and students who must spend the first years of their tertiary education learning how to properly use highly advanced technological equipment are set back significantly in research opportunities.
There are, of course, counterarguments to every argument for using technology in the classroom, but these counterarguments tend to pale in comparison to those arguments for the use of technology. The other side of the debate has two noteworthy points, and the first one is “technology is associated with resistance to change, due to lack of knowledge, or ignorance” (Reed, 2010). Essentially some people fear technology because they are not well versed in it. However, it should be noted that a fear of change and adherence to tradition is not necessarily a bad thing in academics, as long as good advancements are not being thrown away without consideration. For instance, having a classroom full of middle schoolers using their tablets with free wifi is probably not an ideal way to facilitate learning; however, introducing the use of tablets carefully and in the proper context to those same middle schoolers is not outside the realm of possible benefits insofar as technology is concerned.
Similarly, introducing exceptionally-young children to coding is a bad use of technology because it is age-inappropriate, but teaching color or shape recognition using a touch screen introduces them to an interactive form of technology that is becoming ubiquitous in their everyday lives. Those who oppose the use of technology in schools are often afraid that technologies that are introduced will be age-inappropriate or otherwise take away from the instruction; however, it seems that a good instructor with a good understanding of their class would easily be able to integrate proper technologies into the classroom experience seamlessly and in an appropriate way for the age group that they are teaching.
One of the other considerations that is often given insofar as banning technology in the classroom is concerned is the issue of distraction. Hammonds et al (2013) argue that other people associate technology with distraction because “it comes with such features as games and other online media.” This is a valid argument, but in a tertiary educational institution, most, if not all of the students are adults; if they wish to come into class and misuse their time and disrespect their professor in this way, then it is unfortunately their prerogative. However, in a classroom setting full of younger children, as previously discussed, there is a definite concern that the presence of technology may lead to distractions or game-playing when learning should be occurring.
This argument regarding games and distractions in the classroom is extremely valid when considering younger students, however. It is negated by the fact that most proponents of technology use in the classroom do not support open technology use by all students whenever they feel it necessary; this would be anarchy in the classroom. Like all other classroom activities, use of technology can and should be regulated by the instructor to ensure that students are paying attention to the lesson at hand. In short, those who argue against technology in the classroom often have the wrong idea about the ways in which technology is actually used in the classroom; with a better understanding, their opinion could well change.
What others consider distraction is essential since play and enlightenment are as well essential. In light of this, the Organization of American Historians (2012) says, “the real power of computer lies in its graphics rather than its word processing function.” Children are beginning to integrate computers and technology into their play today, and without guidance, they can easily fall into the trap of overuse and misuse of technologies. A quick web search will reveal hundreds of videos of toddlers looking at magazines and trying to manipulate the pictures as though they are touch screens; this is the reality of the technological age that exists today. Ignoring technologies and hoping that children can find a way to use technologies safely and carefully without adult guidance is asking for trouble in the future, especially considering how easy it is for predators to use the Internet to prey on children.
It is the job of educators to provide the best learning environment possible for those students who join their classes. Without the use of technology, students may fall behind and be less prepared for the next steps in their lives, whether they are young children or recent college graduates just beginning to look for a career. It is evident, from the foregoing, that the pros of using technology in college classroom outweigh the cons. As such, the use of technology in the college classroom is a valid option, and all institutions should endeavor to embrace the idea. Determining the best method for using technology in the classroom should be a decision left up to the instructor, and regulated by outsiders only when completely necessary; instructors, particularly professors, have an excellent idea of the best ways to teach the material that is pertinent to their course.
Gu, X., Zhu, Y. & Guo, X (2013). Meeting the “Digital Natives”: Understanding the Acceptance of Technology in Classrooms. Educational Technology & Society, 16 (1), 392–402.
Hammonds, L., Matthessen, L., Wilson, E.K & Wright, V. (2013). Gareway tools: Fine tools to alow teachers to overcome barriers to technology integration. The delta Gamma Bulletin.
Organization of American Historians. (2012). Book reviews. Journal of American History
Osorio, J., Tatnall, A., Visscher, A., & IFIP TC 3/WG 3.7 International Working Conference on Information Technology in Educational Management (ITEM). (2005). Information technology and educational management in the knowledge society: IFIP TC3 WG3.7, 6th International Working Conference on Information Technology in Educational Management (ITEM), July 11-15, 2004, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain. New York, NY: Springer.
Reed, R. H., Berque, D. A., & WIPTE. (2010). The impact of tablet PCs and pen-based technology on education: Going mainstream, 2010. West Lafayette, Ind: Purdue University Press.
Riley, P. (sept. 2013). Teaching, learning and living with iPads. Music educators journal, 100(1), pp. 81-86